What You Need to Know:
* Georgia State opened the MGM Grand Main Event with an impressive 75-54 victory over Rice in Houston on Tuesday night.
* Junior Jeff Thomas led the Panthers with 18 points as Georgia State hit 11 3-pointers.
* Sophomore D'Marcus Simonds filled up the stat sheet once again, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.


HOUSTON-Led by 18 points from junior Jeff Thomas, Georgia State cruised to a 75-54 win over Rice on Tuesday night at Tudor Fieldhouse in the first game of the MGM Grand Main Event.

Sophomore D’Marcus Simonds who recorded the first triple-double in school history on Friday finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists as the Panthers forced Rice (0-2) in 23 turnovers.

Georgia State improved to 2-0 for the second time in three years and 9-4 against teams from Conference USA in the last four-plus seasons.

Thomas knocked down three 3-pointers as the Panthers made 11 on the night. Junior Malik Benlevi added 11 points, including three 3-pointers, while Isaiah Williams came off the bench to added nine points including three treys.

“This is a really good win on the road,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “Our defense really stepped up tonight to force 23 turnovers. Offensively, we are still not clicking the way I expect us to, but I know that will come around.”

Georgia State came out strong defensively forcing Rice to miss its first six shots, while also forcing four turnovers before the Owls scored their first point with 13:46 to play in the opening half.

After Rice tied the game 5-5, Georgia State used a 20-3 run to build a 25-8 lead with 6:14 to play in the half. The Panthers continued to push the tempo and went into halftime leading 42-25, forcing Rice into 12 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.

Georgia State continued to push the pace in the second half, leading by as many as 26 points with 6:21 to play. The Panthers finished the game shooting 46.0 percent, holding Rice to just 35.7 percent from the floor.

The Owls were led by Ako Adams who finished with 10 points and six rebounds. A.J. Lapray scored a team-high 12 points.

Senior Jordan Session filled up the box score with five points, four rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot, while junior Devin Mitchell added eight points.

Georgia State will continue the MGM Grand Main Event on Friday at Ole Miss. Tip is set for 7 p.m. ET as the game will air live on SEC Network+.

Hunter will enter Friday night looking for the 400th win of his career after becoming Georgia State’s all-time career wins leader last season. He is one of just seven NCAA Division I coaches to be the winningest coach at multiple schools.

Notes:

  • Georgia State has attempted 69 3-pointers in the first two games of the season.
  • Georgia State is 7-2 under head coach Ron Hunter in games played in the state of Texas.
  • Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Panthers have won 88 games, the most of any NCAA Division 1 program in the state of Georgia.