ARLINGTON, Texas-Georgia State made its free throws down the stretch to earn a 63-58 win over UT Arlington to open Sun Belt Conference play on Thursday night at the College Park Center.
Georgia State (10-4, 1-0 Sun Belt) was led by junior D’Marcus Simonds who finished with 15 points as one of three Panthers in double figures. Senior Devin Mitchell added 11 points, while fellow senior Malik Benlevi scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds.
UT Arlington (4-10, 0-1 Sun Belt) had four in double figures including David Azore and Brian Warren who each scored 13 points.
Neither team shot better than 41.0 percent from the floor, but the difference was Georgia State holding UT Arlington to just 2-of-25 (8.0 percent) from 3-point range. The Panthers pressure on defense helped GSU overcome 19 turnovers which led to 18 Maverick points.
“Winning on the road in conference games is one of the hardest things to do,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “We know that we are going to get everyone’s best shot and we saw that from UT Arlington tonight. We didn’t play perfect, but that is okay. We made our free throws down the stretch and played really good defense all night.”
Simonds moved ahead of Devonta White into fourth place on Georgia State’s all-time scoring list and now has 1,402 career points.
The Panthers entered play leading the Sun Belt averaging 9.5 3-pointers per game and knocked down 8-of-21 beyond the arc.
Georgia State opened the game red-hot as Mitchell knocked down three-straight 3-pointers to give the Panthers a 9-0 lead just 1:40 into the game forcing UT Arlington to call an early timeout.
The Mavericks immediately responded with a 10-0 run and led 10-9 with 15:43 to play, but it would be short-lived as UTA led for just 32 seconds of the game.
Late in the half, Benlevi scored eight-straight Georgia State points to give the Panthers a 30-24 lead with 2:28 to play before GSU went into the locker room with a 31-28 lead.
The Panthers shot 50 percent in the opening half, but took just 18 shots and turned the ball over eight times which led to 10 UTA points.
Georgia State opened the second half scoring the first seven points to take a 38-27 lead with 15:41 to play following a pair of free throws by senior Jeff Thomas.
Thomas, who was celebrating his 23rd birthday, finished with eight points and is now just two shy of moving into Georgia State’s top 25 for career scoring.
As the game progressed, both teams went cold for long stretches. Georgia State was held scoreless from 12:13 to 6:32 to play, but still led by four as UT Arlington made just one basket from 11:05 to 5:30 to play.
Senior Damon Wilson, who finished with eight points off the bench, provided a huge spark with a 3-pointer and lay-up with just over two minutes to play, before the Panthers made their free throws down the stretch. Simonds block of an Edric Dennis 3-pointer with 13 seconds to play secured the win.
- Georgia State has won five of its last six games.
- The Panthers snapped a streak of three-straight losses in Sun Belt Conference openers.
- Georgia State improved to 9-3 in games played in Texas under head coach Ron Hunter.
- Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Panthers have won more games (120) than any other NCAA Division I team in the state of Georgia.
- Benlevi and Thomas picked up the 70th wins of their careers at GSU.
Georgia State will round 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+.