ARLINGTON, Texas — Georgia State used a strong second-half surge to earn a 77-49 win over UT Arlington and secure no worse than a share of the Sun Belt Conference regular season title on Thursday night at the College Park Center. The title is the Panthers first since winning the Atlantic Sun Conference title during the 2001-02 season.
Senior Manny Atkins, who was named Sun Belt Player of the Week on Monday, tied a career-high with 27 points, including 17 in the second half as the Panthers outscored the Mavericks 48-15 in the final 20 minutes. Atkins went 8-of-17 from the floor, knocking down three 3-pointers and going a perfect 6-of-6 from the line, while pulling down seven rebounds.
Trailing 34-29 at the half, Georgia State opened the second-half on a 30-5 run and led by as many as 29-points with under three minutes to play.
Redshirt-junior Ryan Harrow added 15 points and four assists, while senior Devonta White finished with 11 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Sophomore Markus Crider tied a career-high, set just five days ago, with 12 points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench.
Georgia State (21-7, 14-1 Sun Belt) has won 18 of its last 19 games, including four in a row, and now leads Western Kentucky by three-games with just three-games to play.
“I thought we came out and played with great energy in the second half,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “Markus Crider played absolutely lights-out. He has stepped up over the last week and is giving us everything he can.
“I am so happy for the people of Georgia State. This championship is for them. To be able to do this in just our third year is special. I told the guys before the game that opportunities like this do not come around every year, so you need to embrace it and take advantage of it when you can. There is no doubt that they did that tonight.”
UT Arlington (12-15, 7-8 Sun Belt) got 18 points from Reger Dowell, but the Mavericks were held to just 35.7-percent shooting, including 2-of-15 from 3-point range.
Lonnie McClanahan added a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Mavericks.
It was truly a tale of two halves. In the first half, the two teams changed leads 12 times and were tied on nine other occasions.
Sophomore R.J. Hunter was limited to four first half points and four rebounds. After banging knees, he was held out of the second-half for precautionary reasons.
Senior Rashaad Richardson knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the second half to finish with six points in 14 minutes off the bench.
The Panthers 14 conference wins are tied for the second most in program history and nine wins away from home are also tied for the second most in GSU history.
White moved into eighth-place on the all-time games played list and with 96 career-starts, is tied with Leonard Mendez for the second most in program history.
Georgia State will continue its three-game, eight-day road trip at Texas State on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET.