What You Need to Know:
* Georgia State will host in-state rival Georgia Southern for a "white-out" on Saturday in the GSU Sports Arena.
* The game will serve as the annual 'Barefoot for Bare Feet' game in which head coach Ron Hunter coaches barefoot to raise awareness for Samaritan's Feet.
* The game is expected to be a sell-out and fans are encouraged to arrive early to avoid long lines.


ATLANTA-For what is expected to be the fourth-straight sell-out in the series at the GSU Sports Arena, Georgia State will host in-state rival Georgia Southern for a “white-out” in the annual “Barefoot for Bare Feet’ game on Saturday at 2:15 p.m.

Georgia State (13-6, 4-2 Sun Belt) enters play riding a four-game winning streak and seven-game home-court winning streak in the series with the Eagles.

At 13-6, the Panthers are off to the second-best start to a season in program history after tying the school record for the most non-conference wins in school history.

Georgia Southern (14-5, 5-1 Sun Belt) enters play one game ahead of the Panthers in the standings with one-third of league play in the books.

Saturday’s contest can be heard live on 1340 The Fan 3/103.7 FM and now WXJO-AM 1120/104.5 FM with Dave Cohen, now in his 35th year as the Voice of the Panthers, and 680 The Fan’s Brandon Leak calling the action. The game will also air live on the WatchESPN platform with Sam Crenshaw and Rodney Turner calling the action. Live statistics and live audio will be available at GeorgiaStateSports.com and on most mobile devices. 

Saturday afternoon will also mark the fifth 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.

Fans are encouraged to wear white to the game and show up early as a sell-out crowd is expected. The game has sold out each of the last three years when “The School Down South” has made the trip north.

Head coach Ron Hunter will coach the game barefoot to raise awareness for Samaritan’s Feet. Hunter is 10-0 in games where he coaches without shoes and this will mark the 11th-straight-year raising awareness for the organization.

Samaritan’s Feet distributes shoes and hope to individuals all around the world. Since 2003, the group has distributed more than 6.5 million pairs of shoes. Georgia State has made three trips with Samaritan’s Feet in the last six years and is planning a trip this summer.

“This is always one of the hardest games for me to coach each year,” Hunter said. “There is the pain of coaching barefoot, but I know that will go away. It is just the emotions of knowing that we are hopefully making a difference in the lives of children around the world by raising awareness for such a great cause.”

Georgia State enters play ranked first in the league in turnover margin (+5.0) and field goal percentage defense (39.6), along with second in steals (8.3) and blocked shots (4.4). The steals per game total ranks No. 27 in the NCAA, while the turnover margin is No. 7.

However, the Panthers’ offense is equally good. Georgia State is second in 3-point field goal percentage (38.0) and third in 3-point field goals made per game (8.9) after knocking down 14 against Coastal Carolina.

Among Georgia State’s most potent offensive options is sophomore D’Marcus Simonds who enters Saturday averaging 20.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. His points per game total is currently the third-best total in school history. He has scored in double-figures in 36-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 11.8 points per game. He has made a team-high 50 3-pointers and is shooting 43.1 percent from beyond the arc, tops in the Sun Belt.

Junior Jeff Thomas rounds out the group averaging 10.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He is shooting 44.8 percent from the floor and 75.0 percent from the free throw line.

Junior Malik Benlevi and senior Jordan Session round out the starters. Benlevi is averaging 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, while Session adds 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest. Benlevi garnered a double-double at Coastal Carolina on Saturday, while Session missed by one rebound.

Notes:

  • Simonds 20.8 points per game scoring average ranks No. 28 in the NCAA and his total points scored (395) is No. 19. He has made 142 total field goals which ranks No. 12 in the country.
  • 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 seven points for 1,000 in his career.
  • Jeff Thomas has scored in double figures in eight-straight games.

Following the game on Saturday, Georgia State will remain at home to host Sun Belt preseason favorite UT Arlington on Thursday at 7:15 p.m.

Quick Notes:

• Georgia State and Georgia Southern will meet for the 54th time on Saturday.

• The two teams split the season series last year with each team winning on its home court.

• GSU is coming off a 72-58 win over Coastal Carolina on Thursday to win for the fourth-straight time.

• Georgia State has won seven-straight home games over the Eagles dating back to 1992.

• Georgia State currently leads the annual Rivalry Series with the Eagles 6.5-0.5.

• Georgia State’s 13-6 start is tied for the second-best 19-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 57 Sun Belt games since returning to the league in 2013. No other program in the league has more than 51 wins during that time.

• D’Marcus Simonds has a pair of double-doubles already this season and has scored in double figures in 36-straight games dating back to last season.

• Simonds is averaging 20.8 points per game which is currently the third-best single-season scoring average in school history. He is currently ranked No. 28 in the NCAA in scoring.

• Georgia State enters play ranked No. 7 in the NCAA with a turnover margin of 5.0, No. 24 in field goal defense (39.6) and No. 19 in total steals with 158.

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 7 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 99 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 Sun Belt preseason favorite UT Arlington on Thursday at 7:15 p.m.