NASHVILLE-Despite 24 points from D’Marcus Simonds and overcoming a double-digit second-half deficit, No. 15-seed Georgia State fell to No. 2-seed Cincinnati on Friday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Bridgestone Arena.
Trailing by 10 with just under 15 minutes to play, Georgia State (24-11) responded with a 13-2 run to take a 45-44 lead with just over 10 minutes to play. Unfortunately, Cincinnati (31-4) came right back with a 10-0 run and the Panthers run in the Big Dance came to an end.
Simonds, the Sun Belt Player of the Year, finished 10-of-20 from the floor with four rebounds, while senior Isaiah Williams added 10 points including back-to-back 3-pointers during Georgia State’s second-half run.
The Bearcats were led by double-doubles from Jarron Cumberland (27 points and 11 rebounds) and Gary Clark (11 points and 13 rebounds).
“I'm really proud of our young men,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “I thought we got wore down under about the four, five-minute mark. Their offensive rebounding kind of got us. But I thought these kids represented our institution and the city of Atlanta extremely well. This is a group that most of us will be back. I thought Zeke coming off the bench was really big in the second half. We were able to get the lead. But their size, their size was just really a factor.”
Cincinnati’s size may have proved to be the difference in the game as the Bearcats outrebounded the Panthers 46-26 on the glass which led to 24-second-chance points.
The two teams came into the game as two of the top 10 defenses in the country and did not disappoint. Georgia State was held to just 39.6 percent shooting, while Cincinnati shot just 38.7 percent from the floor.
Georgia State opened the game taking a quick 8-1 lead over the Bearcats as Simonds knocked down a pair of 3-pointers.
Simonds continued to lead the scoring charge, scoring Georgia State’s first 16 points as the Panthers took an 18-11 lead on a Jeff Thomas lay-up with 11:44 to play in the first half.
Cincinnati started to cut into Georgia State’s lead and on a jumper by Cumberland took its first lead of the game, 26-25, with just under five minutes remaining in the first half.
In taking the lead, the Bearcats used an 11-0 run to take a 31-25 advantage with 2:19 to play and went into the locker room with a 35-30 lead. Simonds finished the first half with 18, while Cumberland led Cincinnati with 16. The Bearcats outrebounded the Panthers 26-14, leading to an 18-5 advantage in second-chance points.
On another 3-pointer by Cumberland, Cincinnati pushed its lead to double figures, 42-32, with 14:39 to play, before the Panthers mounted their comeback.
Isaiah Williams followed with back-to-back 3-pointers while scoring eight-straight GSU points as the Panthers went on a 13-2 run to take a 45-44 lead with 10:34 to play following a lay-up by Simonds.
Cincinnati responded with a 10-0 run to go back ahead 56-47 with 6:18 to play, forcing Hunter to call his second timeout.
A possession later the Bearcats pushed the lead into double figures and Georgia State would get no closer.
Kyle Washington added 13 points for Cincinnati, while Jacob Evans just missed a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Georgia State fell to 2-4 all-time in NCAA Tournament action; this marked the first time in last three appearances (2001, 2015) that the Panthers failed to win at least one game during an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Coach Ron Hunter led his third team to the NCAA Tournament (IUPUI in 2003, Georgia State in 2015 & 2018); fell to 1-3 all-time in the tournament.
Georgia State recovered from a 10-point deficit in the second half to take a 47-46 lead with 9:30 remaining before Cincinnati responded with a 10-0 run over the next three-plus minutes en route to victory.
The Panthers finished the season with a 24-11 record, the 4th-most wins in a season in program history; it marks the 4th time in the last five seasons that Georgia State has reached 20 wins.
The 53 points scored by the Panthers were the team’s lowest scoring total of the season (previously 54 pts, Jan. 27 vs. Texas State).
The 15-point margin of loss matched the 2nd-highest suffered by Georgia State this season (22 pts, Dec. 29 at South Alabama in 86-64 defeat).
Georgia State’s 3-point field goal percentage (38.5) is the best mark in school history, while the 323 3-pointers made on the season broke the Sun Belt Conference record (previously 318, Coastal Carolina, 2016-17).
With a team-leading 24 points, sophomore D’Marcus Simonds, the Sun Belt Player of the Year, increased his Georgia State single-season scoring record to 742 points.
Simonds finished the year with a Panthers single-season record 21.2 points per game.
Simonds scored Georgia State’s first 16 points of the game and 18 of the team’s 30 first-half points.
Senior Jordan Session became the first Panther in school history to play in two different NCAA Tournaments (also in 2015); Session finished 2nd in school history in games played (128) and career wins (85).