D’Marcus Simonds’ 24 points and 10 rebounds leads the Panthers past Georgia Southern in front of sold-out crowd

Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

There was no love to be found in the GSU Sports Arena, as the Georgia State Panthers (14-6, 5-2) faced off against Georgia Southern (14-6, 5-2) in what was an exhilarating game from start to finish. Although the Panthers clawed the Eagles 83-66 on Saturday, this sold-out affair was nothing short of amazing. In fact, the 3,584 fans in attendance had such an impact on this game head coach Ron Hunter pleaded for the Georgia State faithful to continue to support the Panthers as the season continues.

“What a great game and a great environment,” Hunter said. “Our fans gave us some incredible energy in the second half. We needed that. It picked our guys up to play some of the best defense I have seen all season.”

Georgia Southern’s most coveted player, Tookie Brown, was inactive against the Panthers as he suffered a concussion and was not yet cleared to play. Nonetheless, the Panthers played quality basketball on both ends of the floor.

If you happened to miss this electrifying game, here were the keys to victory for the Panthers:

The Panthers’ offense too much to handle

D’Marcus Simonds was apparently enthusiastic about playing against the Eagles because he was just short of a triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Simonds was aggressive throughout the game, and that led to other Panthers getting involved offensively. Jeff Thomas (15), Isaiah Williams (16) and Malik Benlevi (11) were the beneficiaries of Simonds driving to the basket and kicking it out to the open man. Georgia Southern was unable to cover the many shooters that Hunter possesses on this team, and that led to the Panthers shooting 48 percent from three-point range and 50 percent from the floor for the game.

The Panthers go hard in the paint

Georgia State had 30 points in the painted area against Southern, which is somewhat a surprise given the Panthers’ identity is shooting the three ball. Along with Simonds’ ability to drive the lane with aggression and finesse, big men Jordan Session and Jordan Tyson were very active in the paint totaling 11 points.

Isaiah Williams showed up and showed out

Williams is one of the two seniors on this year’s Panthers team, and as of lately he’s been playing like it. Against Southern, Williams came was inserted into the game when Simonds found himself in early foul trouble and contributed in a major way. In fact, Hunter says that Williams will be a pivotal piece for this team moving forward.

“My seniors are playing like seniors that want to win a championship,” Hunter said. “He’s [Isaiah] relaxed. Before, the crowd would get on him when he wouldn’t take those shots, and now he’s taking those shots. He just relaxed a little bit.”

“Whenever you play in a season, there are your ups and downs; it’s how you handle the downs when things get that way, so he handled that very well. And every player kinda goes through it. But you’re starting to see right now as he’s peaking, our team is starting to peak right now.”

With a huge win against the Eagles, the Panthers are now looking ahead to their next match against UT Arlington (13-7, 4-3) on Thursday. The Jan. 25 game will tipoff at 7:15 p.m. inside the GSU Sports Arena.