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MOBILE, Ala.- Georgia State could not overcome a frigid shooting performance and fell to South Alabama 86-64 in the Sun Belt opener for both schools on Friday night at the Mitchell Center.
Sophomore D’Marcus Simonds led the Panthers with 27 points, but Georgia State shot just 39.7 percent from the floor and just 30.4 percent from 3-point range while being outrebounded 43-26.
Georgia State (9-5, 0-1 Sun Belt) lost for just the third time in the last nine games. South Alabama (7-6, 1-0 Sun Belt) shot 52.7 percent from the floor and 12-of-24 from 3-point range, finishing the night with 22 points off 14 Georgia State turnovers.
Rodrick Sikes led South Alabama with 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range. Josh Ajayi added a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds for South Alabama which defeated the Panthers for just the second time in the last 10 meetings.
“Not much good we can take from this game,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “We got off to a slow start and could never recover. Credit South Alabama for playing hard all night. They earned the win.”
After making its first shot of the game, South Alabama missed its next seven as Georgia State built an early 9-3 lead with 14:01 to play in the first half.
Trailing 11-5, the Jaguars used a 9-0 run to build a 14-11 lead with just over nine minutes to play. South Alabama continued to lead 25-24 before using a 7-0 run to push its lead to 32-24 with a minute remaining in the first half.
Georgia State trailed 32-25 at halftime after shooting just 30.0 percent from the floor and being outrebounded 26-17.
Leading 32-29, South Alabama used an early 12-0 second half run to take a 44-29 lead with 16:35 to play and basically put the game out of reach.
Trailing by 24, Georgia State used a late 8-0 run to cut South Alabama’s lead to 59-43 with just under 10 minutes to play, but the Jaguars immediately responded with a 10-0 run, capitalizing on 16 made 3-pointers in the game.
Juniors Jeff Thomas and Devin Mitchell each scored 11 points for the Panthers, while Malik Benlevi grabbed a team-high six rebounds and swiped four steals.
Jordan Andrews came off the bench to score 19 points for South Alabama, while Herb McGee added eight points and eight assists.
Georgia State will conclude a stretch of five-straight games on the road at Troy on New Year’s Eve. Tip is set for 4:15 p.m. ET from Trojan Arena.