ATLANTA — In front of the first home sellout crowd since 1989, the Georgia State men’s basketball team wrapped up a 17-1 league record in its first year in the Sun Belt Conference as it eased by Western Kentucky 73-55 on Saturday at the GSU Sports Arena. The Panthers improved to 24-7 on the season and will be the No. 1 seed in the SBC Championship starting on Saturday, March 15 in New Orleans.
Ryan Harrow led the way with a game-high 20 points while Devonta White, one of four Panther seniors honored before the game, added 19.
Georgia State won for the 21 st time in its last 22 games, the best stretch in program history. The Panthers went undefeated at home this year, 13-0, just the second time the team has finished a season with an unblemished mark at home. The 24-wins are the second-most in the 50-year history of the program.
“Congratulations to the entire Georgia State community,” head coach Ron Hunter said to open his postgame press conference. “I am really happy for this University and to see everyone celebrate like this is just awesome.
“It was a tough game to play for a lot of reasons, but I thought that once again our defense stepped up and played great. All season long we have talked about our offense, but our defense has continued to improve and today really showed.”
Georgia State led 12-11 with 12:17 to play in the first half before using a 9-0 run that included a dunk and tip-in by redshirt-junior Curtis Washington to push the lead to 21-11 with 9:57 to play.
Western Kentucky (20-11, 12-6 Sun Belt) would get a close as four on a free throw by Payton Hulsey with 5:15 to play in the opening half before Georgia State went into the locker room with a 34-23 lead.
Georgia State kept the lead in double-figures for all but 15-seconds of the second half.
Georgia State shot just 39.6 percent from the field in what was a defensive struggle until midway through the second half. However, the Panthers turned the ball over only seven times and held the Hilltoppers to 35.1-percent shooting and 5-of-23 from 3-point range.
R.J. Hunter came off the bench as GSU started senior Rashaad Richardson for the second straight game. Hunter added 12 points with two steals, helping the Panthers hold a 17-4 advantage in points off turnovers and a 14-0 lead in fast-break scoring.
Washington finished the game with nine points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
Western Kentucky was led by Hulsey who finished with 15 points, while Chris Harrison-Docks added 11 points off the bench.
Before the game, Georgia State honored, Atkins, White, Richardson and Denny Burguillos as the four seniors played for the final time at home. White and Richardson have been a part of 72 wins in a Panther uniform, tied for the third most in program history.
Georgia State will open the Sun Belt Conference championship on March 15 at 3 p.m. ET in New Orleans.