SAN MARCOS, Texas — Georgia State clinched the outright Sun Belt Conference regular season title on Saturday evening with a 66-55 win over Texas State at Strahan Coliseum. It is the Panthers first outright title since the 2000-01 season and clinches GSU the No. 1 seed in the Sun Belt Conference tournament which begins March 13.
Four Panthers finished in double figures, led by sophomore R.J. Hunter’s 18 points, including 15 in the second half. Redshirt-junior Ryan Harrow finished with 14 while reigning Sun Belt Player of the Week Manny Atkins and senior Devonta White finished with 13 points a piece.
After shooting just 27.6-percent in the first half, Georgia State shot 72.2-percent in the second half, making 13-of-18 field goals to turn a one-point halftime lead into an 11-point conference-clinching win.
Georgia State (22-7, 15-1 Sun Belt) has now won 19 of its last 20 games, the best stretch in program history. The 22-wins are tied for the second most victories, tying the mark set during head coach Ron Hunter’s first year, 2011-12. The 10 non-home court wins are also second-most in program history.
Texas State fell to 8-21 and 4-12 in the Sun Belt. Senior Joel Wright came off the bench to score 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds on the Bobcats’ senior night.
“This is a special moment for all of Georgia State,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “This championship is for the alums, students, fans, administration and everyone associated with the program.
“All season long, I have preached that if we follow the process, great things could be possible and today was the culmination of that. Our team came out in the second half on a mission and played really well. I thought our defense played well all game, but it was our offense in the second half that won us that game.”
White finished 5-of-7 from the floor, pulling down five rebounds and dishing out three assists. With 128 assists this season, he moved into the top-10 in a single-season in GSU history.
R.J. Hunter made 9-of-10 free throws and pulled down eight rebounds in the win. He moved into 14th on Georgia State’s all-time scoring list and his 544 points this season are the eighth most in a single-season as he is on pace for the all-time mark.
Harrow, who entered the game having made 24-straight free throws, made his first attempt before a miss. The 25-straight is the second-longest streak in program history behind Hunter’s 38-straight earlier this year.
Trailing 14-7 with 8:53 to play in the first half, Georgia State responded with a 16-6 run to take a 23-20 lead with 2:10 to play.
The Panthers led 23-22 at the half, despite going 8-of-29 from the floor and 3-of-10 from 3-point range.
Georgia State started to pull away midway through the second half as the Panthers held Texas State without a field goal for nearly six minutes to build its lead to 55-49 with under five minutes to play. The Bobcats stayed in the game during that time knocking down nine free throw attempts.
Hunter added a completely unconventional three-point play to pull away one last time. After being fouled by Emani Gant, Gant was called for a technical foul and Hunter hit three of four free throws to give the Panthers a 58-51 lead with 4:18 to play.
Curtis Washington came off the bench to score six points and pull down seven rebounds in 25 minutes.
Senior Rashaad Richardson played in his 112th career-game to enter the top-10 in program history in games played.
Phil Hawkins added 11 points for Texas State, while Emani Gant scored six points and pulled down eight rebounds.
Georgia State will conclude its three-game road trip at Arkansas State on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET in the final road game of the regular season.