Georgia State clinched a share of the Sun Belt’s regular-season title with a 77-49 win over Texas-Arlington on Thursday.
The Panthers (21-7, 14-1) can clinch the title outright with a win, or a loss by Western Kentucky, against Texas State (8-20, 4-11) on Saturday. It would be the Panthers’ first outright title since taking the Trans-Atlantic Athletic Conference in 2001. They shared the Atlantic Sun title the following season.
“I’m just so happy that we have given the people of Georgia State a Sun Belt Conference championship in our first year,” coach Ron Hunter said after the game. “I told the guys before the game, ‘This doesn’t come around every year. You’ve worked hard for it, enjoy it.’
“We want to share it with everyone: our city, our school, our alumni should be excited about what’s happening right now.”
R.J. Hunter, who was held out of the second half of Thursday’s game after banging knees with an opponent, is expected to play Saturday. The sophomore leads the team with 18.8 points per game.
Should the Panthers win Saturday, Ron Hunter said he likely will rest R.J. Hunter in Tuesday’s game at Arkansas State. Ron Hunter said R.J. Hunter has had to log more minutes than planned because Rashaad Richardson’s time has been limited because of undisclosed injuries.
Ron Hunter said he doesn’t plan to rest any other players Saturday or Tuesday. He said the other starters, seniors Devonta White and Manny Atkins, prefer to play, and Ryan Harrow usually performs better with consistent playing time.
The fifth starting spot may be up for grabs. Hunter said he is leaning toward starting Markus Crider on Saturday in place of Curtis Washington.
Crider tied a career-high with 12 points, a mark set last week, in Thursday’s win over the Mavericks. He also grabbed eight rebounds and sparked a defense that limited Texas-Arlington to 25-percent shooting in the second half.
Hunter said he will leave it up to Crider to decide if he would prefer to start or continue his role off the bench.
In the past three games, Crider averaged 11.3 points and seven rebounds in 24.3 minutes. He made 17 of 18 shots during the stretch. For the season, he has averaged 3 points and 3.6 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per game.