What You Need to Know:
* No. 2-seed Georgia State topped No. 7-seed Troy 73-51 in the Sun Belt Conference quarterfinals on Friday at Lakefront Arena.
* Junior Jeff Thomas led the Panthers with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
* The Panthers will advance to face either No. 3-seed Georgia Southern or No. 6-seed UL Monroe on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.
NEW ORLEANS-No. 2-seed Georgia State opened the Sun Belt Championship at Lakefront Arena on Friday with an impressive 73-51 win over No. 7-seed Troy. Junior Jeff Thomas led the Panthers with 19 points as Georgia State held Troy to just 31.1 percent shooting.
Sophomore D’Marcus Simonds who was named Sun Belt Player of the Year earlier this week finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists as the Panthers shot 50.9 percent from the floor.
Georgia State (22-10) will advance to the conference tournament semifinals for the fourth time in the last five years. The Panthers earned revenge over Troy (16-17) which had swept Georgia State during the regular season and knocked GSU out of the conference tournament last year.
“We came out and did what we needed to tonight,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “We got back to playing the type of defense we are capable of and it showed from the opening tip. We did a great job of spreading the ball around to find open looks. It was a great win, but we know we still have a lot of work left.”
Holding Troy scoreless for the first six minutes of the game, Georgia State scored the first nine points and pushed the lead to 14-2 with 12:37 to play causing the Trojans to call timeout.
Devin Mitchell who garnered All-Sun Belt Third Team honors on Monday knocked down three 3-pointers in the first nine minutes of the game as Georgia State pushed the lead to 24-7 with 8:36 remaining.
Troy was held without a field goal for more than five minutes late in the half as Georgia State pushed the lead to 36-17 on a lay-up by senior Jordan Session.
Georgia State went into the locker room with a 37-19 lead while shooting 51.9 percent from the floor and 5-of-12 from 3-point range. On the defensive end, the Panthers held Troy to just 22.7 percent shooting and 2-of-15 from 3-point range. Troy made just five field goals in the first 20 minutes.
Georgia State pushed the lead to 20 points on a jumper by Simonds to lead 57-37 before Troy used a 9-2 run to cut the Panthers’ lead to 59-46 with 8:26 to play.
The Panthers responded with a late 6-0 run to push the lead back to 20 points with just under five minutes to play before Hunter cleared the bench with a little more than a minute to play.
Troy was led by Jordan Varnado who just missed a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Wesley Person scored 14 points going 8-of-9 from the free throw line.
Georgia State will advance to face the winner of No. 2 Georgia Southern and No. 6 UL Monroe on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET live on WatchESPN from Lakefront Arena.
Georgia State improved to 5-3 all-time as a No. 2-seed in conference tournaments . . . The Panthers’ 22 wins are tied for the fourth-most in school history . . . Senior Jordan Session played in his 125th game, third-most in school history and just four shy of the school record . . . Session was also a part of his 83rd win, tied for second-most in school history and four shy of Ryann Green’s school-record of 87 . . . D’Marcus Simonds will enter Saturday’s game just three points shy of R.J. Hunter’s single-season school record of 688 points . . . Simonds moved into a tie for fifth on the GSU single-season assists list with 147 . . . Devin Mitchell knocked down three 3-pointers to move into third on GSU’s single-season 3-pointers made list with 92, just eight shy of R.J. Hunter’s school-record of 100.