On Thursday Jan 30 the Georgia State University Panthers squeezed by the Southern Alabama Jaguars 76-73 in an intense match up that came down to the last wire (and free throws). The game took place at Georgia State Sports Arena in Downtown Atlanta, maintaining the Panthers undefeated home record.
“Hard fought win, proud of the guys. I think in the last couple of games we were in the situation with our backs against the wall. Earlier in the season when we got into those moments you could look in the guys eyes in a timeout and we weren’t very confident in those situations.” Said Head Coach Rob Lainer. “I think the last couple of games we displayed a belief in ourselves. The character that when things aren’t going well we can still find a way. I think they outplayed us for the vast majority of the game but I’m proud of the guys that we found a way to win but we just have to get better. I like that we find a way to win but I prefer if we play well so that would be nice so that’s the next step for us just to go out and play the way we are capable of playing.”
After overcoming a nine point deficit early in the second half, the two teams played a very even basketball game. The stats show a reflection of one another and was seen on the court as well as the lead flipped back and forth. Once the Panthers would pull away, the Jaguars would be fight to take the lead back and vice versa.
The difference maker for Georgia State was Nelson Phillips. He scored 15 points off the bench and totaled seven rebounds, a steal, and a huge block. His energy and poise led the Panthers over the Jaguars in the end. With seconds on the clock, he nailed two free throws to extend the Panthers lead from one to three points to seal the win.
“He had an unbelievable block shot in the game that could have led to an opportunity…so I am definitely proud of Nelson because he was the one guy that I thought really energized us from the first half and he followed that up with great effort…Nelson’s two free throws at the end made a big difference for us. Being up three versus one or two with ten seconds to go is a big difference.” Lanier said.
Georgia State had a difficult time navigating South Alabama’s zone defense. The Panthers found themselves in several situations where the shot clock was expiring and they had to take any shot they could get. Usually a 3-point one. The team put up 26 desperate shots from 3-point range and only knocked down seven of them, finishing with 27% accuracy from the range.
“They [South Alabama] dictated to us the quality of our shots…we gotta do a better job playing against zone. They’re playing against zone like every game now so we should start to establish a rhythm against it.” Lanier said.
The Panthers now move to 15-7 and will face Troy in a rematch at home in GSU Sports Arena this Saturday. The last time these two teams faced, earlier this season in Alabama, the Panthers lost by two.
“This will be one of two times that we get to have a rematch against a team that previously beat us. I hope there won’t be any need for motivation and I won’t waste my energy trying to motivate them. We’re going to have a plan and we’re going to go out there and execute the plan and if they need to be motivated then we’re going to get beat by them again.” Lanier said.