Georgia State Faces UL Lafayette Sunday With NCAA Bid on the Line
Official Release | 3/16/2014, 9:26 a.m.
NEW ORLEANS - With an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on the line, Georgia State will face UL Lafayette on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Lakefront Arena in the final of the Sun Belt Conference Championship. The Panthers will be looking for their third bid to the Big Dance and first since 2001.
Georgia State (25-7) earned a 72-45 win over Arkansas State on Saturday to advance to the championship game. The regular season champions are the No. 1 seed and will face the No. 3 seed UL Lafayette (22-11), a team the Panthers swept during the regular season.
Sunday’s championship game will be carried live on ESPN2. The 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 680 The Fan’s Brandon Leak. Live statistics and live audio will be available at GeorgiaStateSports.com and on most mobile devices.
Georgia State has won 22 of its last 23 games, including eight straight, tied for the third-longest winning streak in program history.
The Panthers are making its first appearance in the Sun Belt tournament in more than 30 years. The Panthers were one of the founding members of the conference in 1976 before departing in 1981.
The Panthers are 6-1 all-time as a No. 1 seed in conference tournaments, winning the TAAC in 2001 and falling in the final of the Atlantic Sun tournament in 2002. This will mark the fifth time Georgia State plays for an automatic bid, having gone 2-2 with wins in 1991 and 2001 and losses in 1992 and 2002.
“We are now 40 minutes from accomplishing our second goal and advancing to the NCAA tournament,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “I have no doubt in my mind that this team will be prepared for the challenge ahead of us. UL Lafayette is a very good team, but we feel like we are a very good team as well and want to bring a title to Georgia State.”
Hunter was named Sun Belt Coach of the Year on Tuesday, the third time in his career earning the honor. He was also named Summit League Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2006.
Georgia State enters the contest No. 3 in the country in fewest turnovers with just 263 this season and is second in turnovers per game, averaging 8.2. The Panthers are third in the NCAA in free throw percentage, making 77.0 percent from the line. GSU is also fifth in assist/turnover ratio (1.63) and sixth in turnover margin (5.3) in the latest rankings.
Sophomore R.J. Hunter, who was named Sun Belt Player of the Year on Tuesday has made a team-best 95 3-pointers, a single-season school record. Hunter leads the Panthers in scoring, averaging 18.5 points per game, fourth-best in the Sun Belt. The sophomore is shooting 87.9 percent from the free throw line this season, currently No. 18 in the NCAA, and on pace to break the school record of 87.6-percent held by Matt O’Brien.