What You Need to Know:
* Georgia State topped in-state rival Georgia Southern 72-67 on senior day in the GSU Sports Arena on Saturday.
* Senior Jeremy Hollowell recorded his second career double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while freshman D'Marcus Simonds scored 21 points.
* Georgia State will be the No. 2 seed in the Sun Belt Conference tournament starting on Friday in New Orleans.
ATLANTA-Before a sell-out crowd on senior day, Georgia State topped in-state rival Georgia Southern on Saturday afternoon 72-67 to clinch a bye in the upcoming Sun Belt Conference tournament in New Orleans next week.
Georgia State (19-11, 12-6 Sun Belt) will be the No. 2 starting next Friday needing to win three games in three days to advance to the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons.
However, it was freshman D’Marcus Simonds who stepped up the biggest in his first Georgia State-Georgia Southern game, scoring 21 points and grabbing five rebounds as the Panthers defeated Georgia Southern (18-13, 11-7 Sun Belt) for the seventh-straight time in the GSU Sports Arena. Simonds missed the game early in the year in Statesboro.
“Georgia State-Georgia Southern didn’t disappoint once again,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “Nothing like playing in-state games this time of year. Coach Byington has done a great job with their program, but I love what this does for the state of Georgia. I thought our guys played hard. D’Marcus was tremendous in the second half. However, it was our defense that won this game for us once again.”
With the pressure of the upcoming conference tournament on the line, both teams had sloppy moments, as Georgia State turned the ball over 20 times, while the Eagles had 11.
However, the difference was in the second half has Georgia State shot 57.1 percent from the floor, including 7-of-9 from 3-point range, while Georgia Southern was held to just 35.5 percent shooting and 6-of-20 from beyond the arc. The Panthers also outrebounded the Eagles 45-21 for the game.
Georgia Southern was led by Ike Smith who scored 27 points, while Tookie Brown added 11 for the Eagles who knocked down 11 3-pointers.
The two teams combined for 15 lead changes and eight ties.
Georgia Southern took an early 6-5 lead before the Panthers responded with a 5-0 run capped by a Hollowell lay-up to take a 10-6 lead with 16:40 remaining in the first half.
With Georgia State leading 22-19, the Eagles responded with a 6-0 run to take a 25-22 lead with 4:03 to play and led by as many as six before going into the locker room with a 32-28 lead.
Georgia Southern pushed the lead to as many as seven early in the second half before Georgia State responded with an 8-0 run to take a 36-35 lead with 16:56 to play.
The Panthers went up by four, 45-41, when senior Isaiah Dennis knocked down just the fourth 3-pointer of his career with 14:16 to play.
On back-to-back 3-pointers, Georgia Southern went back ahead 57-51 with 8:46 to play, but when sophomore Jeff Thomas knocked down his fourth 3-pointer with 6:34 to play, Georgia State once again tied the game 59-59.
After a Simonds’ 3-pointer with 5:18 to play gave Georgia State a 63-61 lead, the Panthers would never trail again.
Thomas finished with 16 points, going 6-of-10 from the floor and 4-of-4 from 3-point range. Redshirt-sophomore Devin Mitchell added eight points and five rebounds for the Panthers.
Georgia State open the Sun Belt Conference tournament in New Orleans on Friday at Lakefront Arena as the No. 2 seed. Potential opponents will be determined later Saturday night.