What You Need to Know:
* Georgia State will face Little Rock on Thursday night at 7:15 p.m. in the first of nine home Sun Belt games in the next two months.
* Sophomore D'Marcus Simonds leads the Panthers averaging 21.3 points per game, the most in school history.
* Georgia State's 9-6 start to the season is tied for the fourth-best 15-game start in program history.
ATLANTA-Looking to snap a two-game skid, its longest of the year, Georgia State will face Little Rock in the first game of 2018 on Thursday night in the GSU Sports Arena at 7:15 p.m.
Georgia State (9-6, 0-2 Sun Belt) is looking to bounce back from a pair of tough losses on Alabama to close out 2017, including a 68-66 loss at Troy on Sunday. Regardless of the two-game losing streak, the Panthers tied the school record for the most non-conference wins in school history and are off to the fourth-best start in program history.
Little Rock (4-11, 1-1 Sun Belt) will be visiting its eighth state already this season and is coming off a 71-62 victory against UL Monroe on Sunday.
Thursday’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. The game will also air on the WatchESPN platform for a third-straight year with Sam Crenshaw and former Panther Rodney “Truck” Turner calling the action. Live statistics and live audio will be available at GeorgiaStateSports.com and on most mobile devices.
Thursday night will also mark the third of nine Panther Athletic Club Hospitality Events located on the fourth floor of the GSU Sports Arena. All Panther Athletic Club members are encouraged to attend.
This marks the first time since the 2006-07 season that Georgia State has opened conference play 0-2.
“We have had a very good week of practice and our guys are not letting two games ruin what can still be an incredible season,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “It has been more than three weeks since we have played at home and we are ready to be back where we don’t lose too many games. We take pride in defending our home court and will be ready on Thursday night.”
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 play ranked first in the league in turnover margin (+5.3) and steals (8.9), along with second in field goal percentage defense (39.8), blocked shots (4.3) and third in scoring defense (65.5).
However, the Panthers’ offense is equally good. Georgia State is second in 3-point field goal percentage (37.2) and fourth in 3-point field goals made per game (8.7).
Among Georgia State’s most potent offensive options is Simonds who enters Thursday averaging 21.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 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 32-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 11.6 points per game. He has made a team-high 39 3-pointers and is shooting 43.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Junior Malik Benlevi rounds out the group and is averaging 10.7 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game, shooting 47.1 percent from 3-point range. He is second in the Sun Belt with 34.1 minutes played per game, only behind Simonds.
- Simonds 21.3 points per game scoring average is No. 27 in the NCAA and his total points scored (319) ranks No. 11.
- Simonds ranks in the top four 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 38 points for 1,000 in his career.
Following the game on Thursday, Georgia State will remain at home and face Arkansas State on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. in the GSU Sports Arena live on WatchESPN/ESPN3.
• Georgia State and Little Rock will meet for the 25th time on Thursday and eighth in Sun Belt play.
• The Panthers are looking to snap a two-game losing streak, their longest of the season.
• GSU has won four of the seven meetings with Little Rock since returning to the league in 2013.
• Georgia State earned a 71-54 win over Little Rock in the lone meeting last year.
• Georgia State’s 9-6 start is tied for the fourth-best 15-game start in program history.
• Georgia State won nine non-conference games this year, 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 48 wins during that time.
• Georgia State is coming off a tough 68-66 loss at Troy on New Year’s Eve as a 3-pointer at the buzzer was just off the mark.
• Sophomore D’Marcus Simonds has a pair of double-doubles already this season and has scored in double figures in 32-straight games.
• Simonds is averaging 21.3 points per game which would set a school record if the season ended today. He is currently ranked No. 27 in the NCAA in scoring.
• Georgia State enters play ranked No. 9 in the NCAA with a turnover margin of 5.3 and No. 13 in total steals with 133.
• 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 38 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.
• 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.
• Following today’s game, Georgia State will remain at home and host Arkansas State Saturday at 2:15 p.m. live on WatchESPN.