State vs. Southern lives up to its hype as Panthers prevail 79-75

As the Panthers prevailed over the Eagles 79-75 in an absolute barnburner from the opening tip, the State vs. Southern rivalry did not disappoint.  

Justin Roberts led the Panthers with 21 points, followed by Corey Allen’s 19 and seven rebounds. Eliel Nsoseme finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds (seven offensive), and Kane Williams pitched in 12 points and five assists.

The Eagles came out firing from the jump knocking down five threes on five attempts to take a 15-8 lead on the Panthers.  

However, Panthers head coach Rob Lanier’s early timeout would change the game. Georgia State came out in a 3-2 zone and threw the Eagles’ shooters off rhythm. 

In the minutes that followed, the Eagles shot 5-for-18 from three-point range, and the Panthers forced six turnovers while in the zone.

The Panthers’ big man play early kept them alive in the first half, as they had 20 points in the paint, 12 of which came from Eliel Nsoseme on 6-6 shooting. 

The Panthers moved the ball around well and attacked the rim early; following their slow start, they started off struggling to shoot the ball. Kane Williams led the way with his tenacity attacking the edge, making the Eagles pay at the line, making all of his free throws.

Late in the first, the Eagles found a weakness in the 3-2 zone and their players converted easy points inside. Shortly after, Lanier’s team returned to their usual man-to-man set. The Panthers also surrendered back-to-back points off offensive rebounds to give the Eagles a 42-38 lead at the half.

In the second half, the Panthers seemed to come out with a little more energy to match the Eagles’ first-half play. Nsoseme was getting after it on the boards, grabbing three rebounds in one possession and drawing a shooting foul. 

But the second half was “The Justin Roberts’ Show,” as the junior guard scored 19 points in the second half alone on 66% shooting (6-9). Roberts was getting to the rim, taking the contact and creating space on and off the ball to get wide-open shots.

With the Panthers still down six, they went back to a 3-2 zone and forced back-to-back turnovers. The Panthers’ leading scorer, Corey Allen, showed his clutch gene as he knocked down two consecutive three-point jumpers to give the Panthers a one-point lead with about 3 minutes left in the game.

From then on, it would be a back-and-forth contest as there were five lead changes within the last three minutes of the game. The difference-maker came from Justin Roberts’s timeout with the Panthers down one, with one minute and 30 seconds left in the game.

“I just told the guys I wanted them to fight, believe and play tough,” Panthers head coach Rob Lanier said. “I just like the energy they had in that timeout, where they were communicating with each other, and we had a different body language down the stretch of this game.”

The Panthers would go on a 10-5 run following this timeout, knocking down all six free throws they attempted to ice the game and beat the Eagles, 79-75. The Panthers’ upperclassmen were responsible for 67 of the 79 points, as Justin Roberts with 21 and Corey Allen with 19 led the way.