Claiming the closest thing available to state bragging rights for the second straight year, Coach Lefty Driesell's Georgia State team held off a last-minute Georgia comeback for an 83-78 victory at the Georgia Dome Tuesday night.
Georgia (5-1) was looking for its first 6-0 start in seven years, but instead it was turned back by the Panthers, whose fans flooded the court after the game.
Driesell now is 2-0 against Georgia and 15-0 against in-state teams, including eight wins over Mercer, since he took over the Georgia State program in 1997. Georgia and Georgia State are coming off NCAA tournament seasons.
Even so, Georgia State players said they only heard talk of Sunday's Georgia-Georgia Tech game in Athens instead of Tuesday night's intrastate game.
"We don't want the Georgia State program to be overlooked,'' said guard Lamont McIntosh. "We want to let everybody know we're just as good as their guys, if not better.''
State's win over Georgia last year may have been a surprise, but not this year. Some preseason forecasts have Driesell's Panthers winning the new Atlantic Sun Conference and possibly being the only team in the state to make the NCAA tournament.
Driesell also bemoaned the lack of attention given the game, noting the attendance of 5,102.
"Here were are at the Georgia Dome, it's a great ballgame and how many people do we have here?'' Driesell asked. "Five thousand? We should have had 20,000. People have got to start forgetting football in this state and start thinking about basketball.''
Georgia State has tried without success to schedule Georgia Tech for home and home games. Georgia coach Jim Harrick agreed to make a return visit to Atlanta after losing to Georgia State in Athens last season, but he wanted the game at a venue other than Georgia State's home court.
The game was held at the Georgia Dome when arrangements could not be made at Philips Arena.
Georgia State (3-2) led 41-36 at halftime and took a big lead of 11 points at 70-59 with 7:09 left before the Bulldogs made things interesting in the final minute.
Two free throws by Mike Patrick with 46 seconds left pulled Georgia to within five points at 79-74. Rashad Wright then stole State's inbounds pass and passed to Patrick, who hit a 3-point shot with 42.5 seconds left to pull Georgia to within two points at 79-77.
But after Patrick's 3-pointer, a defensive breakdown by Georgia led to an easy basket by Nate Williams, pushing the Panthers' lead back to four points.
Georgia made only two of four free-throw attempts in the final 20 seconds.
Georgia State fans then danced around the middle of the court.
"It's their game of the year,'' said Georgia forward Jonas Hayes, who was slowed by a sore ankle and held without a rebound in 12 scoreless minutes.
Added Ezra Williams, who led Georgia with 22 points but made only 8 of 23 shots from the field and committed five turnovers: "They're trying to make it a rivalry. I don't consider it a rivalry. It's not like Tech, but they're trying to build it up like that.
"I guess they wanted it more than we did.''
Georgia will play host to Minnesota Friday night before Sunday's 2 p.m. visit from Tech in a game to be televised by Fox Sports South Net.
Nate Williams led Georgia State with a game-high 25 points. He also collected 12 rebounds as the Panthers outrebounded Georgia 36-33.
Chris Daniels (19 points), Rashad Wright (15 points), Thomas (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Patrick (10 points) followed Ezra Williams in double figures for Georgia.
NOTES: For the second straight game, Jarvis Hayes was in uniform and participated in pregame shooting. He may return as early as Friday night's home game against Minnesota from a sprained knee. Saturday will be two weeks since he sprained the knee; he was expected to miss two to four weeks.
Daniels 5-8 9-12 19, Thomas 6-13 0-5 12, Wright 7-12 0-0 15, Cole 0-3 0-0 0, Williams 8-23 2-4 22, Patrick 3-4 2-3 10, Jo.Hayes 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-64 13-24 78.
GEORGIA STATE (3-2)
Terrell 6-13 0-0 16, Williams 11-15 3-3 25, McIntosh 2-3 6-6 11, Cooper 3-13 3-3 10, L.Davis 3-5 0-0 9, Alloway 1-1 0-0 2, Campbell 2-2 0-2 4, Handy 0-0 0-0 0, Patton 2-4 0-0 4, D.Davis 1-1 0-1 2. Totals 31-57 12-15 83.
Halftime-Georgia St. 41, Georgia 36. 3-Point goals-Georgia 7-22 (Wright 1-4, Cole 0-3, Williams 4-13, Patrick 2-2), Georgia St. 9-22 (Terrell 4-8, McIntosh 1-2, Cooper 1-6, L.Davis 3-5, Patton 0-1). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Georgia 33 (Thomas 11), Georgia St. 36 (Williams 12). Assists-Georgia 13 (Wright 4), Georgia St. 15 (McIntosh 4, Cooper 4). Total fouls-Georgia 18, Georgia St. 19. A-5,102.