What You Need to Know:
* Georgia State will face Louisiana on Thursday night in a match-up of the top two teams in the Sun Belt.
* Both teams enter the game on winning streaks that are among the longest in the nation. Neither team has lost in 2018.
* Georgia State's 18-6 start to the season is the second-best 24-game start in program history.
ATLANTA-In a match-up that features the top two teams in the Sun Belt and a pair of squads that have yet to lose in 2018, Georgia State will face Louisiana on Thursday night in the GSU Sports Arena at 7:15 p.m.
Georgia State (18-6, 9-2 Sun Belt) has won nine-straight games and sits in second-place in the Sun Belt standings, just 1.5 games behind first-place Louisiana (20-3, 10-0 Sun Belt).
The Panthers’ winning streak is the third-longest in program history and tied for the 11th-longest in the NCAA. At 18-6, the Panthers are off to the second-best start to a season in program history. Despite seven games remaining in the regular season, Georgia State already has the eighth-most wins in school history.
Thursday’s contest can be heard live on 1340 The Fan 3/103.7 FM, WRAS-FM 88.5 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.
Georgia State leads the all-time series 10-5 and has won four-straight in the series. The two schools have met in three of the last four Sun Belt Conference tournaments and Thursday’s match-up could decide the regular season champion with four weeks to play.
“I would be lying if I said that Thursday night is just another game,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “We started conference play in last place and we have been working our way up the standings. There is one team in front of us and that is Louisiana. For us to get ahead of them, we need to win, it is as simple as that. Our guys are locked in and we look forward to the challenge in front of a packed crowd in the Sports Arena.”
Georgia State enters play ranked first in the league in field goal percentage defense (38.9), turnover margin (+3.9) and blocked shots (4.8), along with second in scoring defense (64.4) and steals (7.6). The Panthers’ scoring defense is ranked No. 20 in the NCAA, while the field goal percentage defense is No. 6.
However, the Panthers’ offense is equally good. Georgia State is first in 3-point field goal percentage (38.8) along with second in field goal percentage (45.8) and 3-point field goals made per game (9.1).
Among Georgia State’s most potent offensive options is sophomore D’Marcus Simonds who enters Thursday averaging 20.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. He has scored in double-figures in 41-straight games and is ranked No. 29 in the country in scoring.
Simonds is one of three Panthers scoring in double figures. Junior Devin Mitchell is second on the team averaging 11.8 points per game following a 38-point, 10 3-pointer performance against Little Rock on Saturday that earned him Sun Belt Player of the Week honors. He has made a team-high 65 3-pointers and is shooting 44.2 percent from beyond the arc which is ranked No. 26 in the NCAA.
Junior Jeff Thomas is averaging 10.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He is shooting 47.1 percent from the floor and 38.3 percent from 3-point range.
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 7.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per contest. Benlevi recorded his third double-double of the year last Thursday, while Session just missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds at Little Rock.
- D’Marcus Simonds has made 186 total field goals which ranks No. 10 in the country.
- Georgia State has made 219 3-pointers this year which is ranked fifth-most in program history, while the Panthers’ 3-point field goal percentage (38.8) is the best mark in school history.
- Seniors Jordan Session has played in 117 career games, tied for eighth-most in program history.
- Despite just being a sophomore, D’Marcus Simonds is just 34 points shy of moving into the top 25 in program history.
- Following the game on Thursday, Georgia State will face UL Monroe in the GSU Sports Arena on Saturday at 2:15 p.m.
• Georgia State and Louisiana will meet for the 16th time and only time during the 2017-18 season. The Panthers own a 10-5 lead in the series and have won four straight.
• GSU and LA are the top two teams in the Sun Belt entering play. Louisiana owns a 1.5 game lead over GSU.
• Louisiana owns 10-game winning streak (No. 10 in the NCAA) while Georgia State owns a 9-game winning streak (No. 11 in the NCAA). Neither team has lost in 2018.
• GSU is coming off an 81-51 win over Little Rock on Saturday to win for the ninth-straight time.
• GSU’s nine-straight wins are the third-longest streak in program history.
• Georgia State finished the month of January undefeated at 7-0. It marked the eighth month in program history going undefeated and just third in which five or more games were played.
• Devin Mitchell was named Sun Belt Player of the Week on Monday for the first time after scoring a career-high 38 points, including 10 3-pointers in the win over Little Rock.
• Georgia State has won seven-straight home games and is 9-1 at home this season.
• Georgia State’s 18-6 start is the second-best 23-game start in program history.
• The Panthers continued to climb the CollegeInsider Mid-Major Top 25 on Monday and are now No. 16.
• The Panthers have won 62 Sun Belt games since returning to the league in 2013. No other program in the league has more than 56 wins (Louisiana) during that time.
• D’Marcus Simonds has scored in double figures in 41-straight games dating back to last season.
• Simonds is averaging 20.9 points per game which is currently the third-best single-season scoring average in school history. He is currently ranked No. 29 in the NCAA in scoring.
• Georgia State enters play ranked No. 20 in scoring defense (64.4) in the NCAA, No. 6 in field goal defense (38.9), No. 15 with a turnover margin of 3.9, and No. 32 in turnovers at just 11.4 per game.
• Ron Hunter, GSU’s all-time leader in wins, won his 400th career game on 11/22 against EWU.
• With Georgia State’s 18 wins, Ron Hunter has led the Panthers to 5-of-the-8 most successful seasons in program history, including a pair of 25-win seasons.
• Isaiah Williams played in his 100th career game this year and scored his 1,000th career point against Georgia Southern on Jan. 20.
• Jordan Session has now played in 117 games, tied for eighth-most in school history. He has also been a part of 79 wins, the sixth-most for any player in program history.
• Georgia State’s field goal percentage defense (38.9) is currently the third-best mark in school history.
• 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 104 games, the most of any NCAA Division 1 program in the state of Georgia.