TULSA, Okla-No. 3-seed Houston held No. 14-seed Georgia State to its lowest shooting percentage of the year to earn an 84-55 win over the Panthers on Friday night in the BOK Center in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Georgia State (24-10) was making its second-straight appearance in the tournament for the first time in program history but was held to just 30.0 percent shooting and 6-of-23 from 3-point range.
Redshirt-junior D’Marcus Simonds led the Panthers with a team-high 18 points while senior Devin Mitchell added 12 points, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers.
Houston (32-3) was led by Corey Davis Jr., who scored 26 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists. The Cougars shot 51.6 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Panthers 51-27.
“First I want to congratulate Houston,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “They played extremely, extremely well today. It's just like I told our guys, there are certain days that are not your day. Shots we made all year we didn't make today. Credit their defense for doing it. They were really, really good defensively.
“Again, we just -- we cut it to five in the first half. We just -- the shots -- our shots just weren’t going down like we were accustomed to them. Their transition was unbelievable. That was the difference of the game was their transition. And so I thought in the half court we were good, just their transition was good. That takes absolutely nothing away from what these guys accomplished. I'm so proud of these young men. Eight years ago I walked into a program that had eight, nine straight losing seasons. Now, these guys have been to the tournament three out of five years.”
Senior Jeff Thomas who finished his career with a school-record 132 games played, finished with five points, while senior Malik Benlevi, who finished his career second in career games played with 130, added four points and four rebounds. Senior Jordan Tyson finished his career with five rebounds off the bench.
Breaon Brady added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Cougars, while Fabian White Jr., recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Houston took an early 15-3 lead using an 8-0 run forcing Hunter to call his first timeout just 4:30 into the game. The Cougars pushed the lead to 19-5 with 12:47 to play before Mitchell knocked down his first 3-pointer.
When Mitchell knocked down his second 3-pointer with just over nine minutes to play, the Panthers trailed just 25-17. Georgia State continued to cut into Houston’s lead and trailed just five, 26-21 before the Cougars responded with a 5-0 run to go back up by 10.
Redshirt-junior Damon Wilson and Simonds knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers for the Panthers and trailed just 36-31 with 1:20 to play in the half before the Cougars made back-to-back baskets to go into the half leading 40-31.
The Panthers were held to just 35.7 percent shooting in the opening half, while Houston shot 51.6 percent and outrebounded Georgia State 24-13.
Houston opened the second half on a 10-2 run to push the lead to 50-33 with 17:08 to play.
Another 9-0 run put the Cougars ahead by 20 and as the Panthers went a stretch of nine minutes without a field goal, Houston was able to pull away for the first round victory.
- Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Panthers have won more games (134) than any other NCAA Division I team in the state of Georgia.
- Georgia State’s 24 wins are tied for the fourth-most in program history.
- The Panthers finished the season with school-record 330 3-pointers.
- Georgia State fell to 2-5 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
- Seniors Malik Benlevi and Jeff Thomas finished their careers as a part of 84 wins, tied for third-most in any four-year stretch in program history.