The Panthers’ close out the season on a high note

Hudson goes up for the block during their blow out victory against Northeastern. Photo by Harry Wyman | The Signal

After a troublesome December and January, Rob Lanier and his squad ended the season on a crucial high note. 

Many gave the Georgia State men’s basketball team-high projections going into this season. 

Pre-season Sun Belt Conference polls catapulted them to the top as the number one team in the SBC rankings. This team would be going into this season with high expectations to live up to. 

This season would be a challenge and test their psyche but the team deserved the ranking despite these factors. 

The pre-season rankings seemed correct, as the team started with an impressive 5-1 record. They were pouncing on teams. They beat Brewton-Parker College by 60 points in the third game. 

Three days later, they beat Northeastern by 19 points. 

The Panthers were looking sharp until they suddenly didn’t. On Nov. 27, they lost by 35 points against Rhode Island. As losses began to stack for the team, COVID-19 began to creep up and strike with a vengeance.

The resurgence of cases began to trend upwards again, and the Omicron variant was spreading at lightning-fast rates. 

Games were being canceled and weren’t being rescheduled. The Panthers had shut down athletic facilities, bringing practices and team gatherings to a halt. Five total games were canceled by the start of January, making it nearly impossible for this team to ever catch a consistent rhythm.

With COVID-19 cancellations and loss after loss, the season looked like one to forget about, but suddenly the team sparked a match.

In the last ten games of the regular season, they went 9-1 and ended the season on a seven-game win streak. During the win streak, they had several key victories. 

The Panthers got their revenge on Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State, two teams that had previously defeated them earlier in the season by small margins. 

After winning against Appalachian State, they defeated longtime rival, Georgia Southern twice in back-to-back meetings. In the first meeting with Southern, Kane Williams came up big as he scored 21 points and willed his team to victory. 

In the Feb. 23 meeting against the University of Louisiana at Monroe, heavy production came from Cory Allen and Justin Roberts as both guards had 15 points. 

In addition to the exceptional guard play,  he scored 11 points in 17 minutes. 

To top the excellent ending to the season, the Panthers defeated the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns 65-58 in the last ever game at the GSU Sports Arena. 

The great ending to the season earned the Panthers the third seed in the conference tournament, thus giving them a first-round bye.

This season had unexpected cancellations and many bouts, but Coach Lanier knows adversity is a part of the game.

“It’s a long season. It’s a long game. You can be playing poorly and still find your way out of it.” said Coach Lanier. 

“Yes, we’ve had some adversity, but we’ve shown resilience. It’s a testament to our staff, our great graduate assistants, and them turning the page each day. The goals we set for ourselves are still in front of us. Each day we gotta come out and get better about our mistakes.”

The Panthers head into the postseason with all the momentum they need. The NCAA tournament begins on Mar. 13, and the NIT tournament starts on Mar. 16. 

Whichever tournament they could potentially wind up in will be considered a victory for Coach Lanier and his players due to the trials and tribulations they faced throughout the first half of the season.