ATLANTA-Looking to win a second-straight and third Sun Belt Conference tournament in five seasons, No. 1-seed Georgia State will open the conference championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET, at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
Georgia State (22-9, 13-5 Sun Belt) won its third Sun Belt Conference regular season title in the last six years with an impressive win over in-state rival Georgia Southern on Saturday. The win gave the Panthers the No. 1-seed and a triple-bye into the tournament semifinals.
The Panthers will wait to see the winner of Game 5 of the tournament which could include No. 8 South Alabama (16-16), No. 5 Louisiana (19-12) or No. 4 Texas State (23-8).
The Panthers have won six of their last seven games entering the tournament. Georgia State’s 22 wins are tied for the fifth-most in program history and the Panthers have knocked down 310 3-pointers, just 13 shy of both the school and conference record.
Saturday’s contest can be heard live on WAOK-AM 1380 with Dave Cohen, now in his 36th year as the Voice of the Panthers, calling the action. The game will also air live on ESPN+ with Matt Stewart and Bob Donewald calling the game. Live statistics and live audio will be available at GeorgiaStateSports.com and on most mobile devices.
“We have had a great week of practice and are ready to go win another championship,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “Our guys have been ready for this moment basically since we lost to Cincinnati last year in the NCAA Tournament. We played ourselves into a great position as the No. 1-seed and now need to go take care of business in New Orleans.”
All five members of Georgia State’s starting line-up are averaging in double figures. The Panthers are the only team in the country with four players having made 50 or more 3-pointers this season and join Duke and Kentucky as the only programs to have four players with 20 or more blocked shots.
Junior D’Marcus Simonds, who earned All-Sun Belt First Team honors on Monday after garnering Sun Belt Player of the Year honors last year, is fifth in the league averaging 18.9 points per game. He stands in second-place on Georgia State’s all-time scoring list with 1,716 points after scoring 20 the Eagles on Saturday. He is just 103 points shy of R.J. Hunter from becoming the all-time career points leader in program history. His career scoring average of 18.1 points per game ranks No. 21 among all active NCAA players.
Since returning from injury, senior Devin Mitchell has shown why he is one of the best shooters in the country. After missing the first seven games, Mitchell has returned to average 12.8 points per game while shooting 44.2 percent from 3-point range which ranks first in the conference and No. 13 in the nation. He has made 80 3-pointers in 24 games this season, tied for seventh-most in a single-season in program history.
Senior Malik Benlevi, who has knocked down a 67 3-pointers, is averaging 11.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. He is coming off his second double-double of the year on Saturday. Senior Jeff Thomas is adding 11.7 points per game while grabbing 4.5 rebounds per contest and has knocked down 67 3-pointers this season.
Sophomore Kane Williams rounds out the starting line-up averaging 11.4 points and 3.7 assists per game. He ranks No. 35 in the NCAA in steals per game with 2.0. He has scored 40 points in the last two games.
- Georgia State’s 22-9 start to the season is tied for the third-best 31-game start in program history.
- Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Panthers have won more games (132) than any other NCAA Division I team in the state of Georgia.
- Devin Mitchell (212/3rd), Jeff Thomas (211/4th), and Malik Benlevi (175/7th) all rank among Georgia State career top 10 in 3-point field goals made.
- Georgia State is shooting 39.3 percent from 3-point range which as it stands today is the best mark in program history. It also ranks No. 10 in the NCAA.
- Georgia State is 20-0 when leading at halftime this season, the second-most wins without a loss at halftime in the country, just behind Gonzaga’s 24-0 mark.
- The Panthers have already overcome five deficits of at least eight points this season, including two of 18 points or greater.
- The Panthers are 8-2 as a No. 1 seed in conference tournaments, advancing to the championship game each time (four appearances) and winning the title twice.
With a win on Saturday afternoon, Georgia State will advance to the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game on Sunday. Tip is set for 2 p.m. ET at Lakefront Arena.