Short-handed Panthers lose in Sun Belt opener

Short-handed Panthers lose in Sun Belt opener

Add Georgia State to the latest team that has had trouble dealing with Coastal Carolina’s DeVante Jones.

The junior guard scored 24 points, 20 in the second half, to boost the Chanticleers to an 81-69 win over Georgia State in the Sun Belt Conference opener in Conway, S.C. Jones has scored 117 points in his past four games.

Georgia State was playing without starting center Eliel Nsoseme and reserve JoJo Toppin, who did not make the trip because of positive COVID tests.

Georgia State (6-2, 0-1 Sun Belt) had won four consecutive games. The Panthers have little time to regroup; the second game of the weekend series with Coastal Carolina will come at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Without Nsoseme, who is averaging 13.6 points and 10.6 rebound, the Panthers had limited resources available to stop beefy Coastal Carolina freshman Essam Mostafa, who finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Georgia State tried to use 6-foot-9 junior Jalen Thomas, who is still working his way back from an injury. Thomas had six rebounds and seven points but fouled out after playing 24 minutes.

The absence of the big guy took its toll on the offense. Georgia State was held 24 points below its season average.

Justin Roberts led Georgia State with 14 points, going 6-for-12 from the floor, with five rebounds. Kane Williams added 12 points, making only 3-for-10 from the field, and Corey Allen scored 10. The Panthers shot only 35.5 percent and made just 5 of 25 of its 3-pointers.

Jones, already honored this season as the conference player of the week, also had 14 rebounds and six assists for the Chanticleers (7-1, 1-0). Deanthony Tipler added 22 points, and Ebrima Dibba scored 15 for Coastal Carolina.

Georgia State did a good job creating turnovers, causing 18 that resulted in 17 points. But Coastal Carolina was the superior team in the paint (40-28) and on fast-break baskets (23-20).

Coastal Carolina took command of the game early. The Chanticleers outscored the Panthers 13-4 to open the game and led by as man as 10 points on Mostafa’s layup with 3:52 left. Coastal Carolina led 39-33 at halftime.

Georgia State got to within four points when Collin Moore made a 3-pointer with 13:40 left, but Jones scored six consecutive points to restore the lead to 10 points at 56-46. The Panthers had a 6-0 spurt to cut the lead to 68-62 on a pair of free throws by Allen, but could get no closer.

Georgia State coach Rob Lanier was able to preserve some minutes for his starters, who will be pressed to play again with little rest. Only Williams (32 minutes) and Williams (31 minutes) played more than three-quarters of the game.