Simonds game-winning layup move GSU to 13-4, 4-0 in Sun Belt

Georgia State’s men’s basketball team gears up for games against UT Arlington and Texas State while maintaining its No. 2 status in the Sun Belt Championship. Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

D’Marcus Simonds made a game-winning layup with .9 seconds remaining to lift Georgia State to a 74-73 victory over Louisiana-Monroe, avoiding the Panthers’ first Sun Belt Conference loss.

Georgia State (13-4, 4-0) had a 21-point second half lead and lost it when the Warhawks’ Daishon Smith scored a layup with 5.5 seconds remaining. Simonds’ heroics extended Georgia State’s winning streak to six games.

This loss is the second consecutive for Louisiana-Monroe on a last second shot, the first being a buzzer beater Georgia Southern converted to win 79-78 on Jan. 10.

“I told our guys there are certain teams in the league that may get down 20 points and quit – ULM is not one of those teams,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “When you are wearing a bulls-eye as the best team in the league, you are going to get everyone’s best shot and that was the case once again today. We can’t relax, but I thought when we got up big we did relax and it almost cost us.”

Simonds had a game-high 28 points on 11-of-24 shooting to go along with five rebounds. Devin Mitchell scored 16 points and went 4-of-10 on 3-pointers.

“D’Marcus made a great play,” Hunter said. “I thought he played really well today. He had been struggling and kind of got it going.”

The Panthers shot 9-of-28 from deep and held Louisiana-Monroe to an 8-of-31 mark on 3-pointers. But the Warhawks (9-7, 2-2) made 5 of them in the second half in addition to 10 2-pointers. Michael Ertel went 3-of-3 from three in the second half and finished with 18 points.

“We were playing unbelievable defense, and we really had been for a long time, the last five or six games,” Hunter said. “We got the 20-point lead and just relaxed. Ertel did a nice job getting that ball in his left hand and making plays.”

Georgia State entered the second half leading 35-28 and picked up right where it left off in the first. Clicking on both ends of the floor, the Panthers went on a 23-13 run to open the frame, and held their game-high 21-point lead with 12:21 remaining.

The situation quickly changed when the Warhawks cut the lead to eight points with 7:48 left on a pair of free throws by JD Williams, who led them with 19 points and seven rebounds.

Louisiana-Monroe scored 13 unanswered points in the final four minutes and took the lead on Smith’s layup with 5.5 seconds left. Simonds then caught the inbound pass at half-court and drove to the basket, converting the game-winning layup. Simonds pushed off and traveled during his gather, but officials didn’t make either call. The Sun Belt suspended the officiating crew for committing the “egregious error.”

“That’s what happens in league play,” Hunter said. “We got a good league, but what we wanted to do is protect home. I told them on Selection Sunday, nobody realizes how you won the game. They just know you won it. It would’ve been a bad loss for us, but we handled it and won the game.”

The Panthers are preparing for a two-game road trip beginning with South Alabama (9-8, 2-2) on Jan. 17 and Troy (9-7, 2-2) on Jan. 19.