With 5.5 seconds left in the game, Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter called a timeout. The Panthers were on the business end of a fierce 13-2 run from the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, who took the lead 73-72. Everybody that filled up the GSU Sports Arena knew who was getting the ball.
Junior forward D’Marcus Simonds took the pass at mid-court, made a B-line towards the basket and made a gyrating (sort of suspended in mid air) layup mere mortals could only dream of making. The Panthers would walk off the court victorious with a 74-72 win in a heated contest that got testy afterwards.
“We called a timeout, I said this is what we’re gonna run, we’re gonna score,” coach Hunter said in the post-game press conference. He couldn’t have called a better play. Simonds finished with 28 points and five rebounds to lead the Panthers to a 4-0 start in Sunbelt Conference play.
When you watch this Panthers team, a few things standout. Their ability to shoot long range shots and more importantly, their ability to stifle opponents when they attempt three-pointers. Teams will attempt threes to keep pace, a plan that has fallen short for their Sunbelt opponents. This was evident in their last two games.
“Thursday night we defended a team (Louisiana) 8-30 (from 3-point range) and then these guys (ULM) 8-31. You know we had to guard 61 threes in two games,” stated Turner. If the other team can’t connect on long range shots, it becomes very difficult to beat this Panthers basketball team.
This formula of three pointers is only one part, you have to add some star power to make it go. Simonds (19.3 ppg.) is a coach’s dream to have and his presence is quickly noticeable. The offense flows much better when he’s on the court and when everything else fails, he can go get you a bucket or draw a foul.
Georgia State’s primary goal is to win the Sunbelt Conference so they can move onto the NCAA tournament and make some noise. Hunter knows what his team is worth and he has pushed all the right buttons so far. “There’s no panic with these guys, this is just a veteran group man and I wish I could say its coaching, but this is just a veteran group.”
Right now the veterans are undefeated in conference play and looking to continue that trend going forward.
After the game versus ULM, A shouting and shoving match ensued between players from both teams. They were separated and no punches were thrown.
Coach Hunter, who had already left the court had this to say, “They said a guy in the stands came down and somebody said something to Malik [Benlevi] and if there’s one dude you don’t wanna say anything to, its Malik. Thats a tough kid man.”