By the end of the half, Georgia State led 28-15 and forced 14 turnovers.
The second half opened much the same. Eric Terry scored a quick basket for Texas State, but then Georgia State’s defense clamped down and held Texas State scoreless for the next five minutes of game time.
Georgia State’s offensive approach switched from the perimeter to attacking the rim and getting the ball inside. After scoring only four points in the paint, Georgia State scored 12 in the paint and attempted 20 free throws in the second half.
Simonds was a big benefactor of the offensive shift. He was able to get to the free-throw line six times, converting all six, and ended the game with 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Texas State was able to get its offense going with two 3-pointers by Mason Harrell, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half. However, it was too little too late, and the Bobcats couldn’t get themselves out of the early hole.
Texas State’s leading scorer Nijal Pearson was held scoreless and was 0-of-10 from the field.
On the night, Texas State shot 13-of-61 (21.3 percent) from the field and committed 18 turnovers. The 46 points were a season-low for the Bobcats.
Georgia State coach Ron Hunter said he and his team took the game personally. The Panthers thought they weren’t given the proper respect by either the media or other coaches in the league, and they played like they had something to prove.
“They’ve got swag because we won the league and (Benlevi and Thomas) aren’t all-conference players,” Hunter said. “We don’t have anybody on all-conference but one guy. That’s why these guys have swag – we have something to prove.
“As I told them, we don’t care about individual awards. All we care is who goes to the NCAA tournament and brings those banners home. That’s the swag we carry.”
With the win Georgia State has a chance to repeat as Sun Belt tournament champions and win its third championship in five years. They also inched closer to clinching an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament.
The Panthers will play the winner of UT-Arlington and Georgia Southern at 2 p.m. Sunday. The NCAA bracket will be released at 6 p.m. Sunday.