Panthers repeat as regular season champs

It was Georgia State, not Southern, holding the Sun Belt regular season championship trophy at the end of Saturday’s highly anticipated matchup for the second season in a row.

The Georgia State men’s basketball team capped off the season against rival Georgia Southern with a 72-55 victory Saturday on Senior day in the jam-packed Sports Arena.

Georgia State was led by a huge offensive explosion from junior R.J. Hunter, who put up a 35-point and six-rebound game. Twenty-four of Hunter’s 35-points came in the second half.

Hunter was also a perfect 16 for 16 from the free throw line.

Curtis Washington added 12-points with five-rebounds for the Panthers. Junior forward Markus Crider grabbed 11-rebounds and added eight-points.

Redshirt senior Eagles guard Jelani Hewitt led Georgia Southern with 17-points and five-assists. Redshirt senior forward Trent Wiedeman added 15-points for the Eagles.

The Panthers raced out to an early 8-2 lead and never really looked back. Georgia State was up by as many as 11 in the first half and maintained the momentum.

The team’s momentum was temporarily halted when senior guard Ryan Harrow drove to the basket and came down lying on the floor in pain about half way through the first half.

The senior guard had to be helped from the floor by trainers with what appeared to be a leg injury. Harrow had five-points in 14 minutes of action.

Harrow returned to a thunderous ovation from the crowd as he gingerly jogged back onto the court. He was forced back out of the game for after the injury appeared to flare up again.

Harrow was among the three seniors honored prior to the game during the senior day festivities along with fellow seniors Washington and Ryann Green.

The Panthers went into the lockeroom for halftime with a 32-21 lead.

Georgia Southern came out after halftime with a 19-6 run to immediately cut the panther’s lead down to six with about 15 minutes remaining in the game.

It was as close as the Eagles would get as Georgia State answered the scoring binge with a 12-5 run of their own, putting the score at 50-39 with 10:39 remaining.

The emotions of the rivalry heated up with about 7 minutes remaining as Hunter and Georgia Southern’s Mike Hughes had a bit of a confrontation following a hard foul. Both players received technical fouls and had to be separated.

The Panthers went on to close out the game with an 15-11 run after building the 13-point cushion prior to the Hunter and Hughes technical fouls, and giving Georgia State the 72-55 victory.

Georgia State also locked up the number one seed in the Sun Belt Tournament and the double bye that comes along with it.

The Panthers will need to win two games to capture the Sun Belt Tournament Championship and punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament later this month.

The Sun Belt Tournament kicks off on Thursday, but the Panthers will be on the court for the semifinal on Saturday.

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