What You Need to Know:
* Georgia State will open Sun Belt play on Friday night at South Alabama looking for a third conference title.
* The Panthers finished non-conference play with nine wins tied for the most in school history.
* Sophomore D'Marcus Simonds lead the Panthers averaging 21.2 points per game and has scored in double figures in 30-straight games.
ATLANTA-Looking to win a third Sun Belt Conference title since returning to the league, Georgia State will open conference play on Friday night at South Alabama.
Georgia State (9-4, 0-0 Sun Belt) won six of its final eight non-conference games with the only two losses coming in overtime before getting ready to open league play. The Panthers tied the school record for the most non-conference wins in school history and is off to the fourth-best start in program history.
South Alabama (6-6, 0-0 Sun Belt) will look to defeat the Panthers for just the second time in the last 10 games. Despite Georgia State winning both games last year, the total winning margin was just four points.
Since returning to the Sun Belt for the 2013-14 season, the Panthers have won 53 conference games. No other program in the league has won more than 46 games during that time.
Friday’s contest can be heard live on 1340 The Fan 3/103.7 FM and WRAS-FM 88.5 with Dave Cohen, now in his 35th year as the Voice of the Panthers, being joined by 680 The Fan’s Brandon Leak. Live statistics and live audio will be available at GeorgiaStateSports.com and on most mobile devices.
The Panthers are coming off an impressive 71-48 victory at Chattanooga last Saturday. Georgia State shot 60.4 percent from the floor while holding the Mocs to just 30.2 percent shooting. Sophomore D’Marcus Simonds led the Panthers with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists on 10-of-14 shooting.
“Everything is starting to come together at the right time,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “We are getting back to playing defense the way we know we are capable of, while our offense is starting to come together. Friday starts an 18-game run to winning another conference title which is one of our goals this year.”
Hunter, who picked up his 400th career win earlier this year, is already Georgia State’s all-time winningest coach, despite this being just his seventh season at the helm of the Panthers.
Georgia State enters conference play ranked first in the league in field goal percentage defense (38.8) and turnover margin (+4.8) along with second in scoring defense (63.7).
However, the Panthers’ offense is equally good. Georgia State is second in 3-point field goal percentage (38.0) and fourth in 3-point field goals made per game (8.6).
Among Georgia State’s most potent offensive options is Simonds who enters Friday averaging 21.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. His points per game total would set a school record if the season ended today. The reigning Sun Belt Freshman of the Year has scored in double figures in 30-straight games dating back to last year.
Simonds is one of three Panthers scoring in double figures. Junior Devin Mitchell is second on the team averaging 11.7 points per game. He has made a team-high 33 3-pointers and is shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc.
Junior Malik Benlevi rounds out the group and is averaging 11.4 points and a team-high 6.3 rebounds per game, shooting 50.8 percent from 3-point range. He is second in the Sun Belt with 33.7 minutes played per game, only behind Simonds.
The Panthers are scoring 73.4 points per game while holding opponents to just 63.7 points per contest. Equally remarkable, Georgia State has forced 217 turnovers, while turning the ball over just 154 times.
- Simonds 21.2 points per game scoring average are No. 30 in the NCAA and his total points scored (275) ranks No. 22.
- Simonds ranks in the top five in the Sun Belt in scoring, assists, steals and minutes played.
- Seniors Jordan Session and Isaiah Williams have both reached the 100 career games played mark this season. Last year three Panthers accomplished the mark.
- Isaiah Williams enters play needing just 42 points for 1,000 in his career.
Following the game on Friday, Georgia State will conclude a stretch of five-straight games on the road at Troy on New Year’s Eve.
• Georgia State opens Sun Belt play at South Alabama playing on the road for a fourth-straight game.
• The Panthers have won four of their last five games and six of their last eight with the only two losses coming in overtime.
• Georgia State has won eight the last nine meetings with South Alabama, including a season sweep last year by a total of four points.
• 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.
• The Panthers have won 53 Sun Belt games since returning to the league in 2013. No other program in the league has more than 46 wins during that time.
• GSU is coming off an impressive 71-48 victory at Chattanooga last Saturday. The Panthers shot 60.4 percent from the floor and held UTC to just 15 first-half points.
• Sophomore D’Marcus Simonds has a pair of double-doubles already this season and has scored in double figures in 30-straight games.
• Simonds is averaging 21.2 points per game which would set a school record if the season ended today.
• Georgia State enters play ranked No. 18 in the NCAA with a turnover margin of 4.8.
• Ron Hunter, GSU’s all-time leader in wins, won his 400th career game on 11/22 against EWU.
• Hunter has led the Panthers to four of the seven most successful seasons in program history, including a pair of 25-win seasons.
• Isaiah Williams played in his 100th career game earlier this year. He is 42 pts. shy of 1,000 for his career.
• Williams, along with Jordan Session have both surpassed 100 career games played this season.
• Georgia State was picked to finish second in the annual Sun Belt Coaches’ Preseason Poll.
• Georgia State is currently receiving votes in the latest CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll.
• The Panthers have won 20 or more games in three of the last four seasons, advancing to postseason play in each of those years.
• Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Panthers have won 95 games, the most of any NCAA Division 1 program in the state of Georgia.
• Georgia State will conclude its stretch of five-straight road games at Troy on New Year’s Eve.