Arkansas State (10-5) at Georgia State (10-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 16, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: GSU Sports Arena (3,800) -- Atlanta, Georgia. Television: None. Home Record: ASU 5-2, GSU 5-0. Away Record: ASU 5-3, GSU 4-5. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, GSU 1-1. Conference Record: ASU 3-1, GSU 3-0. Series Record: Series tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Arkansas State Red Wolves will try to tarnish the Panthers' perfect Sun Belt Conference record when they square off with Georgia State at GSU Sports Arena on Thursday.
ASU claimed its fifth win in six outings on Saturday with an impressive 72-60 victory over South Alabama. The Red Wolves are tied with Arkansas-Little Rock in the SBC standings with a 3-1 league record and own a 10-5 overall mark. ASU has the third-best scoring margin in the conference, outscoring its opposition by a 4.4 ppg. Leaving Jonesboro has not been too difficult for the Red Wolves, who are 5-3 in true road tests.
The Panthers extended their winning streak to seven games last Thursday with a 77-54 rout of Western Kentucky on the road. GSU is the only team remaining in the conference without a loss to a league rival and has outscored its three SBC foes by an average of 14.3 ppg. The Panthers enter this contest ranked second nationally in fewest turnovers per game (8.8) and have the seventh-best turnover margin (5.5) among Division I schools. They are in their first season in the conference after finishing their final season as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association with a 10-8 league record.
Although this is the first year for GSU in the SBC, these schools have collided twice in the past. ASU defeated the Panthers, 74-67, on Dec. 19, 1995 to tie the all-time series at one win apiece.
ASU has been very impressive on the offensive end throughout the campaign en route to an average of 77.9 ppg. In the win over USA, the team went just 6- of-24 from beyond the arc but made up for the poor 3-point shooting by hitting on 20-of-30 tries at the charity stripe. Senior forward Kirk Van Slyke paced the Red Wolves with 21 points and 14 rebounds, while Ed Townsel registered a double-double of his own with 12 points and 10 boards. Van Slyke, who played his first three seasons of collegiate basketball for Houston, is posting 17.3 ppg to go along with 6.2 rpg. ASU has also received a huge boost from Texas- San Antonio transfer Melvin Johnson, who is netting 14.7 ppg with the help of his 51.2 efficiency from behind the 3-point line.
In GSU's lopsided win at WKU, sophomore R.J. Hunter converted his 25th consecutive free-throw attempt to set a school record. The second-year star is scoring 18.4 ppg, while junior guard Ryan Harrow is chipping in 18.6 ppg and 4.5 rpg. Harrow has surpassed the 20-point mark 10 times this season already including a pair of 30-plus point outings. All five of the Panthers' starters scored in double-figures their last time out. Manny Atkins spearheaded the charge with 18 points and three blocks, while Curtis Washington registered a double-double with 16 points and 10 boards. GSU sank all 22 of its free-throw attempts in the contest.
The addition of Harrow, who was a starter for both NC State and Kentucky, has turned GSU into the favorite to win the SBC. The Panthers have plenty of help surrounding Harrow and seem to be meshing extremely well as a team. ASU may give GSU some trouble down the road, but the Red Wolves will have a tough time stealing a win in Atlanta.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia State 84, Arkansas State 75
01/16 10:20:30 ET