ATLANTA — The top two teams in the Sun Belt will meet on Saturday as Georgia State hosts Western Kentucky in the final regular season game for both teams. It will also be senior day in the Sports Arena as the Panthers welcome the Hilltoppers for a 2:30 p.m. tip.
Both teams have already secured their seeds for next week’s conference championship in New Orleans. Georgia State (23-7, 16-1 Sun Belt) has secured the No. 1 seed and will receive the regular season championship trophy in ceremonies after the game on Saturday. Western Kentucky (20-10, 12-5 Sun Belt) has locked up the No. 2 seed following a win over UL Lafayette on Thursday night.
Saturday’s contest can also be heard live on 1340 The Fan 3 and WRAS-FM 88.5, with Dave Cohen, now in his 31st year as the Voice of the Panthers, being joined by former Panther Rodney “Truck” Turner and 680 The Fan’s Brandon Leak. Live statistics, PantherVision HD and live audio will be available at GeorgiaStateSports.com and on most mobile devices.
Georgia State has won six in a row and 20 of its last 21 games, the best stretch in program history. The Panthers return home for one last game after sweeping a three-game, eight-day road trip through Texas and Arkansas last week.
“Being able to return home and celebrate this championship with our great alums, students and fans is special for me,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “What is also important to this team is the fact that we have not lost at home this year and we have prepared this week to make ourselves ready for Saturday.”
Before the game, Georgia State will honor its four seniors along with two graduate assistants and one manager. Manny Atkins, Denny Burguillos, Rashaad Richardson and Devonta White have combined to play in 325 games and score 2,767-points in 12 total seasons in a Panther uniform.
Georgia State enters the contest No. 2 in the country in fewest turnovers with just 253 this season and turnovers per game, averaging 8.4. The Panthers are fourth in the NCAA in free throw percentage, making 77.4-percent from the line. GSU is also fourth in assist/turnover ratio (1.63) and second in turnover margin (5.5) in the rankings from Monday.
Sophomore R.J. Hunter, who has hit a team-best 90 3-pointers and is just four shy of tying the single-season school-record. Hunter leads the Panthers in scoring, averaging 18.8 points per game, fourth-best in the Sun Belt. The sophomore is shooting 87.9 from the free throw line this season, currently No. 28 in the NCAA, and on pace to break the school-record of 87.6-percent held by Matt O’Brien.
Four current Georgia State starters have scored 1,000 or more points in their careers. The Panthers join Elon and North Dakota State has the only programs in the country with four active 1,000-point scorers.
Senior Manny Atkins, who joined the 1,000-point club earlier this year, is averaging 14.8 points following a career-record 30-point effort at Arkansas State on Tuesday. He is adding a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game, both among the top-15 in the conference.
One of the top 3-point shooters in the league, the senior is shooting 49.1-percent from the floor and making 46.7-percent from 3-point range, knocking down 2.3 3s per game, both among the top-seven in the conference. He is on pace to be the second-best 3-point shooter in program history, currently making 44.1-percent from beyond the arc for his career.
Redshirt-junior Ryan Harrow joined the 1,000-point club on Feb. 17 just two days after Hunter became the 18 th Panther in program history to reach the 1,000-point plateau, doing it in just 55 games, the second-quickest in team history.
Harrow is adding 17.1 points per game, fifth in the Sun Belt. He has scored 20 or more points 12 times this year, including a pair of 30-plus point games. The redshirt-junior is dishing out a team-high 4.5 assists per game, tops in the Sun Belt. He also leads the Sun Belt with a 2.7 assist/turnover ratio.
Senior Devonta White joined the 1,000-point group in the final game of last season and currently stands at 1,348 points, fourth most in program history and just 27-points shy of third on the all-time list.
White is averaging 11.6 points per game and shooting 79.8-percent from the free throw line, eighth in the conference. He is also averaging 4.5 assists per game, third in the Sun Belt and his 2.6 assist/turnover ratio is second in the league. He enters play in the top-10 for a career in nearly every statistical category.
Redshirt-junior Curtis Washington rounds out the starting line-up. Washington is averaging 7.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He leads the Sun Belt making 66.9-percent from the floor and is second averaging 2.3 blocked shots per game.
Richardson, who made his first start of the season on Tuesday, knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and tied a career-high with eight rebounds against he Red Wolves. He will finish his career among the top-10 in games played in program history.
Burguillos, in his second year as a Panther, has been one of the first big-men off the bench this year, seeing action in 20 games and making one start.
Georgia State is averaging 78.3 points per game, second in the Sun Belt. The Panthers lead the conference in scoring margin, free throw percentage, field goal percentage, field goal percentage defense, 3-point field goal percentage, blocked shots, steals, assists, turnover margin and assist/turnover ratio.
Offensively, GSU is shooting 47.4-percent from the floor and 38.5-percent from 3-point range. Four Panthers are ranked in the top-eight in free-throw percentage in the Sun Belt.
Following the game on Saturday, Georgia State will open the Sun Belt Conference championship on March 15 at 3 p.m. ET in New Orleans. GSU received a double-bye into the semifinals of the tournament and will need just two wins to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001.