ATLANTA - D’Marcus Simonds scored a game-high 29 points and added six rebounds as Georgia State defeated in-state rival Georgia Southern 81-72 in front of a sold-out crowd Saturday at GSU Sports Arena.
With Georgia State (16-6, 7-2 Sun Belt) holding on to a slim lead in the closing minutes of the game, senior Jeff Thomas flew in for a one-handed putback slam as the crowd erupted and the Panthers sealed the victory. Georgia State has not lost to the Georgia Southern (13-9, 5-4 Sun Belt) at GSU Sports Arena since 1992 – a stretch of nine games.
Simonds, who was held to just one point a week ago, erupted for a season high in points while grabbing six rebounds, going 10-of-20 from the floor with four 3-pointers.
Kane Williams scored 19 for the Panthers, to go along with four assists. Malik Benlevi had 12 points and six rebounds, Thomas scored 10 and Devin Mitchell added nine. Simonds, Mitchell, and Benlevi combined to shoot 9-for-20 on 3-pointers.
Quan Jackson led all scores for Georgia Southern with 20 points. Isaiah Crowley scored 15, and Tookie Brown and Simeon Carter added 11 apiece.
“That was really a great win for us,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “I thought defensively our guys were really locked in today, especially from 3-point range. Kane Williams and Jordan Tyson really stepped up today. I also thought our crowd was awesome. I truly appreciate everyone coming out and providing us with some great energy all game.”
Georgia State led for most of the first half, shooting 51.7 percent from the field while holding the Eagles to just 37.0 percent shooting. With 1:25 left in the first half, Simonds hit a 3-pointer to put the Panthers up by 10, their largest lead of the game, before heading into the half up 37-31.
The Eagles would retake the lead late in the second half, one of the game’s 17 lead changes, on a layup by Brown. But Georgia State finished the game on a 13-3 run while not allowing a made field goal in the game’s final four minutes and 39 seconds.
Benlevi moved into the top 30 in Georgia State history in career scoring with 921 points. Benlevi, along with Jeff Thomas earned the 76th wins of their four-year career. Thomas played in his 120th career game and is now just nine shy of the school record of 129 held by Markus Crider.
- Georgia State’s 16-6 start to the season is tied for the second-best 22-game start in program history.
- The sell-out crowd of 3,854 marked the fifth-straight year the game with Georgia Southern at the GSU Sports Arena has sold out.
- Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Panthers have won more games (126) than any other NCAA Division I team in the state of Georgia.
Georgia State opens a two-game road trip at UL Monroe on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET. The game will air live on ESPN+.