Georgia State stretches win streak to 13

Reaching No. 13 was much easier than reaching No. 12.

Gerogia State extended its school-record winning streak to 13 with a 85-65 victory over South Alabama on Monday at the Sports Arena. The game was supposed to be played last week, but was postponed by the winter storm. Unlike Saturday’s overtime win against Texas-Arlington that set the school record, Monday’s game against the Jaguars was never in doubt.

“I thought our guys took care of business,” coach Ron Hunter said. “One of the things we talked about is it was such an emotional win on Saturday, we wanted to leave that behind.”

The victory keeps Georgia State (16-6, 9-0) atop the Sun Belt as the Panthers improved to 9-0 at home this year. They will now begin the final nine conference games, starting on Thursday at Arkansas-Little Rock.

The Panthers were led by R.J. Hunter, who scored 24 points. Manny Atkins scored 20 and Ryan Harrow added 20 more with seven assists. Georgia State outrebounded South Alabama 24-21.

Both teams came out shooting. Georgia State hit 65.2 percent of its shots and South Alabama hit 57.9 percent. The teams were so accurate there were just 15 rebounds in the first half.

Pressing more than usual, Georgia State forced the Jags into nine turnovers that it turned into 15 points.

Ron Hunter said he decided to press because he wanted to be the aggressor. In the past four games, he thought Georgia State’s opponents came out with more aggression, often putting the Panthers on their heels.

“I wanted to throw the first punch today,” he said.

His tactic worked.

The Panthers seized control with a 15-2 run midway in the first half. Harrow capped the spree with a 3-pointer that gave Georgia State a 31-14 lead. Harrow had eight points during the run.

The fast start enabled coach Hunter to use stretches of the first half to rest his starters, who played a combined 183 minutes in Saturday’s win over Texas-Arlington.

The one starter, 6-foot, 9-inch forward Curtis Washington, who didn’t play a lot against the Mavs looked like a new player against South Alabama. After scoring just six points and not grabbing a rebound in 19 minutes on Saturday, Washington was very aggressive on Monday. He grabbed seven rebounds and scored 10 points.

South Alabama (7-15, 1-8) cut Georgia State’s lead to 11 on a 3-pointer by Antoine Allen with 9:05 left. But two free throws by Harrow and two more by R.J. Hunter pushed Georgia State’s lead to 15. Hunter completed a four-point play with 6:41 left to give the Panthers a 65-48 lead and end any slim chance South Alabama had to rally.

“The last thing I told them, at the end of the day, all we did was take care of home,” Ron Hunter said. “We’ve got to take care of home to win a championship.”