ATLANTA - Center Cody Paulk scored 18 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked 6 shots to lead GSU to a 73-48 victory over Georgia Southern in the opening game of Georgia State Thanksgiving Tournament.

GSU will now advance to play Florida A&M in the championship game at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Georgia Southern will play Kent State in the consolation game at 2 p.m. Saturday. Florida A&M came from behind at halftime to defeat Kent State, 70-56.

Georgia State (3-1) used its aggressive defense to open a quick 14-4 lead and a 22-7 advantage through the game's first 11 minutes. GSU led 34-18 at halftime by holding visiting Georgia Southern to 14.3 percent shooting (4-of-28). Georgia State finished by holding the Eagles to just 34.2 percent for the game (15-of-62).

"I think our defensive pressure affected them early on and was a big key in today's win," coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener said. "We rushed them into some bad shots and that helped us get the job done on defense today."

Georgia State's defense has held all three opponents to 50 points or fewer in starting the season 3-1. Today, GSU forced 15 turnovers and blocked 10 shots.

Offensively, GSU had three players in double figures, led by Paulk's 18 on 8-of-12 shooting in her 22 minutes. Sophomore guard Kayla Nolan added 15 points in her 23 minutes and freshman guard Ashlee Cole contributed 13 more points in her 22 minutes. The Panthers shot 47 percent for the game. 

Georgia State dominated the boards with a 52-37 rebound advantage, paced by Paulk's 12 rebounds and Maryam Dogo's 11 caroms. Georgia State's bench scored 41 of the 73 points today. "We have extra firepower off the bench no matter who starts or who comes in later. Everyone is contributing when they are in the game."

"We are not depending on one person to lead us in scoring this year and we have plenty of firepower," Baldwin-Tener added. "Paulk was solid on defense and altered a lot of their shot selection today. Offensively, she has the range to shoot those mid-range jumpers as well as drive to the rim."

Notebook:

Cody Paulk: The double-double game was Paulk's third of her career...The six blocked shots tied her personal-best game as she had blocked six in a game three times before...Her 12 rebounds were one shy of her personal best...Her season averages are now at double-double level with 10.3 points and 10.0 rebounds.

Kayla Nolan:  Her 15 points marked a perfect four-for-four in double-figure scoring games this season...Her personal best was 17 points last year...

Ashlee Cole:  The freshman, who was just named CAA Rookie of the Week after scoring 11 points in last week's win over JSU, topped that with 13 points in this win. She shot 60% (6-of-10).

Maryam Dogo:  The sophomore JUCO transfer had a second straight double-figure rebound game with 11 boards...Dogo now has 30 rebounds in her first four Division I games (7.5), which is half of her season average last year in JUCO.  

The Panthers have topped 70 points in back-to-back games to up the season scoring average to 70.2 per game...That is up nine points from last year's final 61 point per game average.

The season defensive average of 58 points a game is 12 points less than the 70 allowed per game last season...Only Florida has scored more than 50 on GSU this year.

GSU has an eye-popping 23 blocked shots this year (5.8 per game), which is sure to rank among the national leaders when the first NCAA stats come out next week.

GSU is holding its opponents to 31.5% field goal percentage this season and just .164 outside the 3-point line.