ATLANTA-Georgia State will open its final season of Colonial Athletic Association play on Wednesday night with conference preseason favorite Drexel at 7 p.m. in the Sports Arena.
Georgia State (5-8, 0-0 CAA) will move to the Sun Belt Conference next season after joining the conference in 2005. The Panthers will be looking to snap a four-game losing steak that has included one-point, two-point and an overtime losses.
The game can be heard live on WRAS-FM 88.5 beginning with the Panther Pregame Show at 6:30 p.m. with the Voice of the Panthers Dave Cohen and former Panther Rodney Turner calling the action. Live stats and live video will be available at GeorgiaStateSports.com.
Georgia State dropped a heartbreaker to in-state foe Georgia Southern on Saturday. The Panthers opened the game on a 17-0 run and led by 10 points with less than two minutes to play before the Eagles rallied and won the game in overtime.
“The guys were obviously disappointed to lose on Saturday, but I think they are using it as motivation as we enter CAA play,” commented head coach Ron Hunter. “We are a young team and sometimes you have to hit rock-bottom before you can right the ship. Our players have been giving all of their effort in games and practice and it is going to start to pay off.
“Obviously I do not like to lose, but we have been in every game and after some close wins early, I know we are going to get it turned around and start winning these close games again.”
As Hunter eluted to, the Panthers have won their fair share of close games this season. Georgia State defeated Tennessee State on a half-court buzzer-beater by Rashaad Richardson and then a night later, survived a two-point victory over South Alabama as a part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Less than two weeks later, Richardson provided the heroics again hitting a three-pointer with less than three seconds remaining to give GSU a come-from-behind win over Liberty.
Junior point guard Devonta White, who earned Preseason All-CAA Second Team honors before the season and has also named to the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award Watch List by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, leads the CAA in minutes played (36.7) and steals per game (2.2).
White is second on the team in scoring, averaging 14.6 points per game, 11th in the CAA, while dishing out 2.8 assists, tied for ninth in the league.
The junior captain, who missed 10 games during his freshman season due to an injury, is just 268 points away from becoming the 17th Panther with 1,000 career points. He is on pace to eclipse that mark by the end of the year, needing to average 14.9 points per game in the remaining regular season contests.
R.J. Hunter, the only son of head coach Ron Hunter, leads all CAA freshmen in scoring and rebounding. He has been named the CAA Rookie of the Week three times already this season and is a leading candidate for CAA Rookie of the Year.
Hunter is averaging a team-high 15.5 points per game, eighth in the CAA, and 5.9 rebounds per game, the 16th best mark in the conference. He is also collecting 2.1 three-pointers per game, fourth best in the league and shooting 35.1 percent from beyond the arc, seventh in the conference.
Hunter is also among the CAA leaders in free throw percentage, steals, blocked shots and defensive rebounds.
Redshirt-junior Manny Atkins enters Wednesday’s contest after a 14-point, eight-rebound effort against Georgia Southern. The Virginia Tech transfer has scored 140 points in his last nine games, a 15.5 points per game average.
Atkins has missed three double-doubles this season by just one rebound and another three double-doubles by just two rebounds.
From nearby Tucker, Ga., Atkins is averaging 13.0 points and 6.6 rebounds per game this season, both among the top 15 in the CAA. Atkins is also shooting 76.3 percent from the free throw line, ninth best in the CAA. He is second in the CAA in three-point field goal percentage, hitting 42.3 percent from beyond the arc. He is also tied for seventh in the CAA making 1.7 three-pointers per game.
Lone senior James Vincent is also among the CAA rankings. He leads the league averaging 2.5 blocked shots per game and is 20th in the league in rebounding, pulling down 5.0 per contest. He blocked five shots at Georgia Southern and is now just six blocked shots shy of becoming just the sixth Panther to earn 100 career blocks.
Drexel (4-8, 0-0 CAA) is led by Preseason First Team All-CAA member Damion Lee who is averaging 18.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season. Frantz Massenat, who also earned Preseason First Team All-CAA honors, is adding 12.6 points and 4.5 assists per game while Daryl McCoy pulls down a team-high 8.3 rebounds per contest.
The CAA preseason favorites dropped a 63-49 contest to St. Joseph’s on New Year’s Eve. Head coach Bruiser Flint picked up his 200th win at Drexel earlier this year and has led the Dragons to back-to-back 20-plus win seasons.
Following Wednesday’s contest, Georgia State will return to the court on Saturday hosting James Madison at 2 p.m. in the GSU Sports Arena.