ATLANTA-Building off of one of the most successful non-conference performances in program history, Georgia State will open Sun Belt Conference play on Thursday facing the last league opponent they faced last season, UT Arlington. Tip is set for 8 p.m. at the College Park Center.

Georgia State (9-4, 0-0 Sun Belt) topped UT Arlington (4-9, 0-0 Sun Belt) to win the Sun Belt Conference Championship last March in New Orleans before advancing to a second NCAA Tournament in the last four years. The Panthers returned four of five starters from that team, while the Mavericks lost nine to graduation.

Entering league play, the Panthers won nine non-conference games for the second year in a row to tie the school record for the most non-conference wins. Georgia State’s 9-4 start to the season is tied for the fourth-best 13-game start to a season in program history.

Thursday’s contest can be heard live on WAOK-AM 1380 and WRAS-FM 88.5 with Dave Cohen, now in his 36th year as the Voice of the Panthers, calling the action. The game will also air live on ESPN+ with Ron Thulin and Robert Gill calling the action. Live statistics and live audio will be available at GeorgiaStateSports.com and on most mobile devices.

“Our guys are excited to see conference play get underway as we look to defend our league title,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “Although this is a rematch of last year’s championship game, these are two very different teams and a new season. I feel like we are playing some very good basketball right now and can hopefully take that into Texas.”

Junior D’Marcus Simonds, the Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year, is tied for fourth in the league averaging 19.8 points per game which also ranks No. 50 in the NCAA. He stands in fifth-place on Georgia State’s all-time scoring list with 1,387 points, just six points shy of Devonta White for fourth on the all-time scoring list. His career scoring averaging of 18.0 points per game ranks No. 17 among all active NCAA players.

Along with Simonds, Georgia State’s four other starters are also averaging in double figures in points.

Senior Malik Benlevi, who has knocked down a team-high 30 3-pointers, is averaging 12.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Senior Jeff Thomas is adding 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest and currently stands fifth in program history with 171 3-pointers.

Senior Devin Mitchell, who missed the first seven games of the season due to injury, is averaging 12.0 points per game and has knocked down 21-of-40 3-pointers in the last five games. Sophomore Kane Williams rounds out the starting line-up and is averaging 10.5 points and 3.3 assists per game.

Georgia State has made 124 3-pointers this season, an average of 9.5 per game which ranks tops in the Sun Belt and No. 40 in the NCAA. The Panthers have made 14 or more 3-pointers in a game three times this season.

Georgia State enters play averaging 9.0 steals per game, No. 1 in the Sun Belt and 21st in the NCAA. Williams ranks third in the Sun Belt averaging 2.1 steals per game. The Panthers’ 4.9 blocks per game average is first in the league and No. 30 in the nation.

Notes:

  • Georgia State has won four of its last five games.
  • Since head coach Ron Hunter’s arrival, the Panthers are 8-2 in games played in Texas.
  • Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Panthers have won more games (119) than any other NCAA Division I team in the state of Georgia.

Following Thursday’s game, Georgia State rounds out the trip to Texas facing Texas State on Saturday in San Marcos at 5 p.m. ET. The game will air live on ESPN+.

Quick Notes:

• Georgia State made its second NCAA Tournament in the last four years in 2018 and returns four of five starters. GSU has finished in the top two of the final regular season conference standings four times in the last five years.
• The Panthers are 65-29 in Sun Belt Conference regular season games since rejoining the league in 2013-14.
• Georgia State topped UT Arlington 74-61 to win the Sun Belt Conference title in New Orleans last season.
• Head coach Ron Hunter is 8-2 in games in Texas since taking over the Panthers in 2011-12.
• Georgia State’s 9-4 start is tied for the fourth-best 13-game start in program history.
• Georgia State won nine non-conference games, tied for the most in program history.
• Georgia State faced five opponents who competed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament in the first 11 games of the season. GSU squared off against Montana, St. Bonaventure, Creighton, Alabama, and No. 24 Kansas State all away from home going 2-3.
• As of Dec. 31, Georgia State’s four losses have come to teams with a combined 38-14 record.
• Last time out, Georgia State earned an impressive 117-69 win over Middle Georgia State as the Panthers knocked down a season-high 16 3-pointers. The 117 points scored are the fourth-most in program history.
• GSU has beaten two Power 5 opponents in one season for the second time in program history (Georgia and Alabama). In the 2000-01 season, GSU topped Georgia to open the season then defeated Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament. Those wins are the only two P5 wins for Sun Belt schools this season.
• Georgia State’s 21-point halftime comeback over Alabama (Dec. 4) is tied for the 12th-largest halftime comeback in NCAA history.
• Over the last 10 months, three Panthers have made at least eight 3-pointers in a game. Malik Benlevi knocked down eight against UGA last week, while Jeff Thomas did it against Mercer earlier this year. Last season, Devin Mitchell made 10 3-pointers at Little Rock.
• Since the start of the 2013-14 season, Georgia State has won more games (119) than any other NCAA Division I team in Georgia.
• Junior D’Marcus Simonds is averaging 18.0 points per game for his career which currently ranks No. 17 among all active NCAA players and is tops in the Sun Belt. He has made 512 career field goals which is No. 46 among all active players and the No. 2 junior in the country.
• Simonds was named the Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year after earning AP All-America Honorable Mention last season. He earned Sun Belt Player of the Week honors on Nov. 12.
Jeff Thomas has made 171 3-pointers in his career, sixth on GSU’s all-time.
• GSU is one of just 13 programs in the country to feature two assistant coaches who have NCAA D1 head coach experience (McCallum - Ball State/Houston/Detroit and Williams - Tennessee State).
• Head coach Ron Hunter, Georgia State’s all-time leader in wins, earned the 150th win of his career at GSU in the opening game of the Cayman Islands Classic against St. Bonaventure.
• Hunter has led the Panthers to four of the seven most successful seasons in program history, including a pair of 25-win seasons and 24 wins last year.