ATLANTA-Looking to earn a non-conference record-tying ninth win, Georgia State will host Middle Georgia State on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. in the GSU Sports Arena.
Georgia State (8-4) has won nine conference games three times before in program history, including just last season en route to an NCAA Tournament appearance. All three previous times winning nine conference games led to a postseason appearance, including twice in the NCAA Tournament.
Middle Georgia State (7-3) will be making its second appearance in the GSU Sports Arena, but first during the regular season on Saturday.
Saturday’s contest can be heard live on WAOK-AM 1380 with Dave Cohen, now in his 36th year as the Voice of the Panthers, being joined by former Panther Lamont McIntosh calling the action. The game will also air live on ESPN+ 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.
“It was good for our guys and coaching staff to have a few days off over the break,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “Saturday basically starts the second half of the season. We had a very good first half of the season and our team has battled some very good competition. This will be our final game before conference play hits and we want to be ready for when that occurs.”
Junior D’Marcus Simonds, the Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year, is third in the league averaging 20.3 points per game which also ranks No. 39 in the NCAA. He stands in sixth-place on Georgia State’s all-time scoring list with 1,374 points, just one point shy of Chavelo Holmes for fifth on the all-time scoring list. Simonds is also just one assist and one steal from moving into the top 10 for a career in both categories. He is currently on pace to break R.J. Hunter’s school record of 1,819 career points by the end of the season.
Seniors Malik Benlevi and Jeff Thomas are also averaging in double figures. Benlevi, who has knocked down a team-high 28 3-pointers, is averaging 11.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Thomas is adding 11.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest and currently stands fifth in program history with 168 3-pointers.
Senior Devin Mitchell and sophomore Kane Williams round out the starting line-up. Despite missing the first seven games of the season due to injury, Mitchell is averaging 10.2 points per game and has knocked down 14 3-pointers in his first five games back. Williams is averaging 11.1 points per game to go along with 40 assists and is shooting 51.7 percent from the floor.
Georgia State enters play averaging 8.8 steals per game, No. 1 in the Sun Belt and 22nd in the NCAA. Williams ranks third in the Sun Belt averaging 2.0 steals per game. The Panthers’ 4.8 blocks per game average is second in the league and No. 51 in the nation.
- Georgia State has won five-straight home games dating back to last season.
- With a win on Saturday, Georgia State would finish calendar year 2018 with a 25-9 record.
- Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Panthers have won more games (118) than any other NCAA Division I team in the state of Georgia.
Following Saturday’s game, Georgia State will open conference play at UT Arlington on Jan. 3, at 8 p.m. ET. The game will air live on ESPN+ as the two teams that played for the league championship last March square off for the first time since the title game.
• Georgia State made its second NCAA Tournament in the last four years in 2018 and returns four of five starters from the 2017-18 squad.
• Coach Ron Hunter is 19-6 against teams from Georgia including a 2-0 mark this season (Mercer and UGA).
• Georgia State and Middle Georgia State will meet for the second time, but the first time in the regular season. GSU earned a 73-54 win over the Knights in 2015.
• Georgia State faced five opponents who competed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament in the first 11 games of the season. GSU faced Montana, St. Bonaventure, Creighton, Alabama, and No. 24 Kansas State all away from home going 2-3.
• Last time out, Georgia State earned an impressive 86-71 win over UNCW as the Panthers knocked down 14 3-pointers. It marked the second game this season making at least 14 treys in a game.
• GSU has beaten two Power 5 opponents in one season for the second time in program history (Georgia and Alabama). In the 2000-01 season, GSU topped Georgia to open the season then defeated Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament. Those wins are the only two P5 wins for Sun Belt schools this season.
• Georgia State’s 21-point halftime comeback over Alabama (Dec. 4) is tied for the 12th-largest halftime comeback in NCAA history.
• GSU won five games in November for just the third time in program history. The previous two Novembers (2014 & 2017) found the Panthers playing in the NCAA Tournament the following March.
• Over the last 10 months, three Panthers have made at least eight 3-pointers in a game. Malik Benlevi knocked down eight against UGA last week, while Jeff Thomas did it against Mercer earlier this year. Last season, Devin Mitchell made 10 3-pointers at Little Rock.
• Since the start of the 2013-14 season, Georgia State has won more games (118) than any other NCAA Division I team in Georgia.
• Since returning to the Sun Belt in 2013-14 (5 seasons), Georgia State has finished in the top two of the final regular season conference standings four times.
• D’Marcus Simonds was named the Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year after earning AP All-America Honorable Mention last season. He earned Sun Belt Player of the Week honors on Nov. 12.
• Jeff Thomas has made 168 3-pointers in his career, sixth on GSU’s all-time.
• D’Marcus Simonds enters tonight needing just one steal and one assist to move into the top 10 for a career at Georgia State in both statistical categories.
• GSU is one of just 13 programs in the country to feature two assistant coaches who have NCAA D1 head coach experience (McCallum - Ball State/Houston/Detroit and Williams - Tennessee State).
• Head coach Ron Hunter, Georgia State’s all-time leader in wins, earned the 150th win of his career at GSU in the opening game of the Cayman Islands Classic against St. Bonaventure.
• Hunter has led the Panthers to four of the seven most successful seasons in program history, including a pair of 25-win seasons and 24 wins last year.