SAN MARCOS, Texas-Led by 22 points from senior Malik Benlevi, Georgia State earned a 73-69 win over Texas State on Saturday night at Strahan Arena to sweep the Texas swing to open Sun Belt play.
Georgia State (11-4, 2-0 Sun Belt), won for the sixth time in seven games and for the 15th-straight time in the month of January. The Panthers won for the fourth straight time over Texas State (12-3, 1-1 Sun Belt) and for the fifth-straight time in Strahan Arena.
Benlevi finished 8-of-13 from the floor and 5-of-8 from 3-point range while pulling down seven rebounds as the Panthers improved to 2-0 in league play for the first time since 2014-15.
Senior Devin Mitchell added 16 points while sophomore Kane Williams scored 14 points while grabbing five rebounds and four assists. Junior D’Marcus Simonds, who was held to a season-low seven points, tied a career-high with 12 rebounds.
Four Bobcats finished in double figures led by Tre’Larenz Nottingham who scored 17 points, while Nijal Pearson added 10 points and six rebounds before being ejected for a flagrant one foul. Jaylen Shead added 13 points and seven boards in the loss.
“That was a really big win in a lot of ways,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “It is big to start conference play 2-0. I also don’t know how many teams will come into Texas and sweep both games this season. I didn’t think we played well offensively all weekend, but we did play great defense. We know our defense can win us games and it did this weekend.”
Benlevi scored the first seven points for the Panthers as GSU took an early 7-4 lead. Holding Georgia State scoreless for nearly five minutes, Texas State used a 10-0 run to take a 14-7 lead with 14:16 to play in the opening half.
Hitting 7-of-13 shots to start the game, Texas State pushed the lead to 21-13 with 8:02 to play, but the Bobcats finished the half missing 17 of their next 19 shots and on a pair of Simonds free throws, the Panthers tied the game 24-24 with just over a minute to play.
On a fast break floater, Nelson Phillips sent the Panthers into the locker room with a 26-24 lead as Georgia State shot 45.8 percent in the opening
Texas State opened the second half with a 6-0 run, but after that, Georgia State took over for the final 19 minutes of the game.
Williams and Mitchell combined to score Georgia State’s first 18 points of the second half. Tied 41-41, the Panthers used an 8-0 run to take a 49-41 lead with 11:30 to play. During the run, Pearson was ejected and Simonds made both free throws to spark another run.
Benlevi knocked down four straight 3-pointers for the Panthers as Georgia State went ahead 58-46 with 6:53 to play.
Georgia State did not make a field goal the final four minutes of the game but went 11 of 15 from the free throw line to secure the win.
The Panthers finished the game going 18-of-23 from the free throw line, while Texas State went just 15-of-29. The Bobcats also went just 6-of-25 from 3-point range.
Senior Jeff Thomas finished with eight points and five rebounds and moved into Georgia State’s top 25 in career scoring.
- Since head coach Ron Hunter’s arrival, the Panthers are 10-3 in games played in Texas.
- Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Panthers have won more games (121) than any other NCAA Division I team in the state of Georgia.
- Georgia State’s last loss in the month of January came at home against Troy on Jan. 9, 2017.
- Georgia State held its first two conference opponents to just 8-of-50 (16.0 percent) from 3-point range.
Georgia State will return home to face Sun Belt foe Louisiana on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the GSU Sports Arena. Tickets can be purchased by visiting GeorgiaStateSports.com/Tix.