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Georgia State Tops Georgia Southern 73-67 To Advance To Sun Belt Championship
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Georgia State Tops Georgia Southern 73-67 To Advance To Sun Belt Championship

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NEW ORLEANS- No. 2-seed Georgia State advanced to its third Sun Belt Championship game in the last five years with a 73-67 win over No. 3-seed Georgia Southern on Saturday afternoon at Lakefront Arena.

Senior Isaiah Williams came off the bench to score 21 points, going 8-of-8 from the free throw line, while senior Jordan Session just missed a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds.

Georgia State (23-10) will face No. 4-seed UT Arlington on Sunday in the championship game at 2 p.m. ET with the winner advancing to the NCAA tournament. It marks the seventh-time in program history advancing to a conference tournament championship game. The Mavericks upset top-seed Louisiana 71-68 in the first semifinal of the day.

The Panthers eliminated Georgia Southern (21-12) from the conference tournament for the second time in four years despite 25 points from Tookie Brown and 16 points from Ike Smith.

“This is a really good win against an in-state team,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “We knew that they were going to make a run in the second half as they went small which kind of bothered us a little bit. However, our guys are resilient and wanted to play for a championship tomorrow. Now we have a chance to get back to the Big Dance.”

Georgia Southern took an early 7-6 lead before Coye Simmons was called for a foul and subsequent technical that sent Georgia State to the line for four free throws.

The Panthers made 3-of-4 from the line that spurred an 11-0 run as Georgia State pushed the lead to 17-7 with 11:49 to play. During the stretch, GSU held the Eagles scoreless for nearly five minutes as Southern missed eight-straight field goals.

A third 3-pointer by Thomas pushed Georgia State’s lead to 24-11 with just over eight minutes to play. It was a part of a stretch where the Panthers made eight-straight field goals following a lay-up by Jordan Session that pushed the lead to 36-19 with 5:46 to play.

Georgia State went into the locker room leading 46-31 after shooting 54.2 percent from the floor, 5-of-9 from 3-point range and 15-of-18 from the free throw line. On the defensive end, the Panthers limited the Eagles to just 35.5 percent shooting and 3-of-12 from 3-point range.

Georgia Southern cut the lead to 10 points following a free throw by Mike Hughes with 14:18 to play, before Malik Benlevi responded with a 3-pointer to give GSU a 55-42 lead with 12:26 to play.

A 3-pointer by Ike Smith and back-to-back free throws by Tookie Brown spurred a 7-0 Georgia Southern run that cut the Panthers’ lead to 57-51 with 7:16 to play.

Two more Ike Smith free throws cut Georgia State’s lead to 60-56 with 4:23 to play, but Isaiah Williams responded with a lay-up and 3-pointer to push the lead back to 66-56 with 2:45 to play.

Georgia Southern responded with a 7-0 run and cut the Panthers’ lead to 66-63 with just 53 seconds remaining.

With the shot clock winding down, Georgia Southern got called for a kicked ball with 23 seconds to play, resetting the shot clock to 20 seconds.

Coming out of a time-out, junior Devin Mitchell thought that there was just one second on the shot clock and heaved a 3-pointer that went in to double Georgia State’s lead, 69-63.

Isaiah Williams made four free throws down the stretch to secure the win.

Limited by foul trouble, D’Marcus Simonds was held to just six points, ending a streak of 49-straight games scoring in double figures. However, with his first basket, he scored his 689thpoint of the year breaking the single-season record previously held by R.J. Hunter.

Jeff Thomas added 13 points, while freshman Kane Williams came off the bench to score eight and dish out four assists.

Quan Jackson added 10 points and five rebounds for Georgia Southern which was held to 39.7 percent shooting and 5-of-21 from 3-point range.


Georgia State improved to 6-3 all-time as a No. 2-seed in conference tournaments . . . Georgia State is 3-3 all-time in conference tournament championship games . . . The Panthers’ 23 wins are the fourth-most in school history . . . Senior Jordan Session played in his 126th game, tied for second-most in school history and just three shy of the school record . . . Session was also a part of his 84th win, second-most in school history and three shy of Ryann Green’s school-record of 87 . . . Devin Mitchell knocked down two 3-pointers and is just six shy GSU’s single-season 3-pointers made mark with 94 this year.

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