The Big Win in Boise
In 2001, the Panthers shocked Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAAs
Thinking back about the 2000-01 Georgia State basketball season, I remember, before they ever tipped off, having a really good feeling about Charles “Lefty” Driesell’s team that year.
Kevin Morris, Shernard Long and Darryl Cooper were seniors and Thomas Terrell and Deltorio “Bam” Campbell were juniors, and it was time for them to have that breakout season everyone was expecting. The Panthers served notice there was a new sheriff in town (basketball speaking) in the state of Georgia when they opened the season in Athens, Ga., and ran the host Bulldogs out of Stegeman Coliseum, 91-79.
Having broadcast a number of Georgia State games in Athens that we didn’t come close to winning, this was a shock. We’d never done anything like that before. Who were these Panthers? Driving back to Atlanta that night I had a feeling that a special season was upon us. Georgia State went on to win 15 of their first 17 games and then carried that momentum into winning 10 of their last 11 games heading into the Trans America Athletic Conference tournament, where the Panthers handled Florida Atlantic, Samford and Troy and earned their second-ever NCAA tournament bid.
Going into the Big Dance at 28-4, Georgia State was an 11 seed. There was a part of me that felt confident we could play with our first round opponent, 25th-ranked Wisconsin. But another part of me remembered that the Badgers had been a Final Four team the previous season, and, indeed, they looked like one in the first half of the game. The Panthers fell behind by as many as 16 points, but Kevin Morris drained a long three-point shot right before the halftime buzzer that gave the Panthers momentum heading into the locker room.
In the second half there were so many clutch plays and shots. We were down five, 49-44, with a minute left when Darryl Cooper hit a three-point shot from the right wing and was fouled with 48 seconds to play. “Coop” made the free throw for the four-point play — maybe the biggest play in Georgia State basketball history — and it was a one-point game. He followed that up with a huge steal and pass to Shernard Long, who gave Georgia State the lead 50-49 with a lane-driving shot off the glass.
Wisconsin had a chance to tie or reclaim the lead when Badgers’ center Mark Vershaw was fouled. He went to the line and missed both, and Long got the rebound on the second missed shot. Long missed the first shot of the one-and-one, but Wisconsin missed on a last-second desperation shot. Georgia State had shocked Wisconsin.
Morris led the Panthers with 18 points, Long had 13 and Cooper added 11.
Two days later the Panthers took the court to face Maryland. There was a lot of interest because Coach Driesell forged his reputation while coaching the Terrapins in the 1970s and 80s. Georgia State played them tough and the game was tied at 47 with less than 15 minutes to go before Maryland, featuring five future National Basketball Association players, pulled away for a 79-60 win.
Flying back to Atlanta that night, and just taking in the experience of the whole season, it was something special to see a Georgia State basketball team win 29 games and an NCAA tournament game.
Dave Cohen (B.A. ’94) has been the voice of Georgia State for more than 30 years and is the longest-tenured broadcaster for a Division I sports team in the state.