ATLANTA--Jihad Ali scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half to lead Georgia State to its third straight win, 72-50, over Liberty Saturday at the GSU Sports Arena.
Ali, the senior from Atlanta, went six-for-six from the floor, including four three-pointers, for the Panthers, who evened their record at 3-3. He has come off the bench in each of the last two games and scored 36 points.
Sophomore Devonta White added 15 points, and Eric Buckner blocked a career-high seven shots, to go along with nine points and seven rebounds.
Buckner's seven blocks tied for the second most in single game history, trailing only Sylvester Morgan's nine against Mercer on Jan. 23, 2005. In just his second season, Buckner moved into Georgia State's career top 10 list in blocks as well and now has 70, eighth most in school history.
"I was excited how the team played defensively," commented GSU head coach Ron Hunter after the game. "Liberty is a very good team that won 19 games a year ago. This was the third straight game that we held our opponents to 50 points or less and when you can do that at this level, you have a pretty good defensive group."
During the three-game winning streak, the Panthers have averaged 65.3 points per game, while holding opponents to just 49 per contest. It is the first time in school history that State has held its opponents to 50 points or less in three straight games.
"Our team continues to gain confidence every minute, every half and every game, and that is what we need to do," continued Hunter. "We keep talking about being at our best in February and tonight's win definitely helps us toward that goal."
Senior Josh Micheaux added seven points and 10 rebounds along with five assists in 31 minutes. Micheaux's streak of 13 straight made free throws came to an end three minutes into the game, though he still finished 5-of-7 from the line.
Georgia State opened the game in dominating fashion as White's lay-up 5:26 into the game gave GSU a 9-2 lead.
Junior James Vincent extended the lead to 10 at 18-8 with a dunk just under eight minutes in as the Panthers never trailed, pushing the first half lead to as much as 12.
Vincent finished the game with five points and three rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench.
Liberty (2-5) trailed 37-28 at halftime shooting 34.5 percent from the floor and 0-4 from three-point range.
A jumper by Jesse Sanders cut the Panthers lead to just 47-45 with 8:34 to play, but that is as close as the Flames got.
Ali hit three treys over a three-minute stretch, including on back-to-back trips down the court as the Panthers finished the final 7:09 of the game on a 19-3 run.
Georgia State shot 48 percent from the floor and hit 8-of-19 from three-point range, while outrebounding Liberty 38-34.
Taveres Speaks led Liberty with 16 points and six rebounds, while Sanders added 14 points and seven boards.
Senior Brandon McGee added 11 points and six boards for State while senior James Fields scored eight and dished out six assists.
Georgia State will return to the court on Tuesday, traveling to Orangeburg, S.C., to face South Carolina State. Tonight's game marked the first of four games in eight days as State will return home to face FIU on Thursday before opening CAA play next Saturday against William & Mary.