ATLANTA - Georgia State will open the 2012-13 season at the road in one of the most hostile environments in the college basketball, Cameron Indoor Stadium, Friday night facing the No. 8-ranked Duke Blue Devils at 7 p.m. The game will be televised live on ESPNU.
It will mark the first time in program history that Georgia State faces Duke. The game can be heard live on 100,000-watt WRAS-FM 88.5 beginning with the Panther Pregame Show at 6:30 p.m.
Following a pair of impressive exhibition game victories, Georgia State will face its toughest national test since going up against Kentucky during the 2005-06 season at Phillips Arena. It also marks the fifth straight season the Panthers will open the regular season on the road.
After an 85-62 23-point win over Life, Georgia State cruised to an 80-60 20-point win over Albany State on Sunday night in the Sports Arena.
Freshman R.J. Hunter, the only son of head coach Ron Hunter, finished the two exhibition games with 52 points. After leading Pike (Ind.) High School to the championship game of the state tournament last year, Hunter averaged 26.0 points, six rebounds and four assists in Georgia State’s two exhibition contests. He shot 57.1 percent from the floor, 53.3 percent from three-point range and 80.0 percent from the free throw line.
“We improved a great deal from our first exhibition game to the second,” commented Ron Hunter following Sunday’s win. “You could tell that we were nervous in the first half against Life, but we came out with much better intensity against Albany State. We will need to play with great intensity against Duke.
“Although we are young, I will continue to remind my team that we are playing the players on the court on Friday, not the logo on the jerseys. I have a great deal of respect for Coach K and the Duke program and so do our players. However, our guys have played against most of those guys whether in high school or in AAU and will definitely be up to the challenge on Friday night.”
Georgia State is coming off its second most successful season in school history, winning 22 games, only behind the 29 of the 2000-01 team of head coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell. The Panthers advanced to the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, falling to eventual champion Mercer during Hunter’s first season.
After opening the season 0-3, the Panthers won a school-record 11 straight, capped by wins over CAA preseason favorite Drexel and 2011 Final Four participant VCU.
Junior Devonta White, who earned Preseason All-CAA Second Team honors a few weeks ago, returns as the lone starter from last season after leading the team in scoring with 12.9 points per game. White dished out 2.9 assists per game, 11th in the CAA, while shooting a team-best 83.0 percent from the free throw line, among the top 75 in the nation.
Redshirt-junior Manny Atkins will make his debut with the Panthers on Friday night. The Virginia Tech transfer sat out the 2011-12 season due to NCAA transfer rules, after seeing action in 56 games over two seasons with the Hokies.
Junior Rashaad Richardson rounds out the Panthers tri-captains along with White and Atkins. Richardson has impressed in season-openers before, scoring 21 points on 7-of-10 three-pointers at Washington to begin last season.
Hunter’s first team was built around strong defense, ranking in the top 20 in the nation in scoring defense (58.9), field goal defense (38.0%), steals (9.3) and blocked shots (5.4). This year’s squad will miss Eric Buckner’s defensive presence in the middle but is expected to feature more scoring ability as last year’s squad was in the bottom half of the NCAA in scoring. Buckner finished fifth in the nation in blocked shots.
Duke is 78-29 all-time in season openers, including a 30-2 mark under head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The Blue Devils have won 12 straight season openers with the last loss in a season opener coming in 1999 when Duke opened the season with a 80-79 loss to Stanford in the opening round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in New York City.
Duke has also won 30 consecutive home openers and is 31-1 in home openers under Krzyzewski. Duke’s last loss in a home opener was a 76-75 double-overtime defeat to Vanderbilt on Nov. 28, 1982.
Following the Panthers trip to Durham, Georgia State will return to Atlanta for 48 hours before heading to Provo, Utah to face BYU on Tuesday night. The game will tip at 9 p.m. ET.
Live stats can be found via GeorgiaStateSports.com.