Box score attached
ATLANTA-Before a sold-out Sports Arena, Georgia State earned a 72-55 victory over Georgia Southern to repeat as Sun Belt Champions on Saturday afternoon. Junior R.J. Hunter led the Panthers with 35 points, including 23 in the second half after Ryan Harrow, Georgia State’s leading scorer left with an injury.
This marks the second time the Panthers have repeated as conference champions. Georgia State earned three-straight Atlantic Sun Conference titles from 2000-02.
Georgia State (22-9, 15-5 Sun Belt) will enter the Sun Belt tournament as the No. 1 seed and play next Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. Georgia Southern (21-8, 14-6 Sun Belt) will be the No. 2 seed when the tournament gets underway in New Orleans.
Hunter finished the game 8-of-17 from the floor with three 3-pointers, but more importantly, went a school-record 16-of-16 from the free throw line and pulled down six rebounds.
Before the game, Georgia State honored seniors Ryann Green, Ryan Harrow and Curtis Washington. Washington stepped up with 12 points and five rebounds on 6-of-11 shooting, while Harrow scored five points in 14 minutes before leaving the game.
Green, who went from a walk-on as a freshman to on scholarship for his senior year and a team captain, scored four points and grabbed five rebounds. It marked the 84th win of his career, establishing a new four-year record for the most wins in program history.
“When I came to Georgia State, a lot of people told me how hard it would be to win here,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “I was thinking a lot about that this morning. We have done a lot of great things here in four years, but I also know that this season is not done yet. The support from our alums, fans and students has been incredible and seeing everyone packed into the arena today made me extremely proud and I know I made the right decision to be a Panther.”
The Panthers improved to 44-12 in their last 56 games dating back to last season and own a 32-6 mark in conference games since returning to the Sun Belt. The squad is off to the third-best start in school history and have now won 25 of its last 26 home games.
Jelani Hewitt led Georgia Southern with 17 points, including five 3-pointers, but the Eagles went just 10-of-19 from the free throw line and were outrebounded by the Panthers 39-23.
Leading 8-7 just minutes into the game, Georgia State went on a 10-0 run to take an 18-7 lead with just over 10 minutes to play. The Panthers went into the half leading 32-21, outscoring the Eagles 20-8 in the paint, forcing 10 Georgia Southern turnovers which led to 13 points.
Trailing 38-26 two minutes into the second half, Georgia Southern went on an 8-0 run that included back-to-back 3-pointers by Hewitt and Curtis Diamond to cut the Panthers lead to 38-34 with 15:26 to play, causing Hunter to call his first timeout of the half.
Georgia State immediately responded with a 10-0 run to take a 48-34 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers from Hunter with 12:22 to play. Georgia Southern would never get closer than 10 points again as the Panthers pushed the lead to as many as 17 with just over two minutes to play.
Hunter scored his 600th point of the season early in the second half, marking just the sixth time a Panther has accomplished the feat. He accomplished the feat last season (604) and now has 611 points this season. He is just 24 points shy of the school-record of 635 held by Thomas Terrell (2001-02).
Junior Markus Crider just missed another double-double finishing with eight points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
Georgia State’s 22nd win is tied for the third-most in school-history. The Panthers finished the season 12-1 at home. The 15 conference wins is also third-most in program history.