Western Kentucky (20-10) at Georgia State (23-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 8, 2:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: GSU Sports Arena (3,400) -- Atlanta, Georgia. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: WKU 13-4, Georgia State 12-0. Away Record: WKU 7-6, Georgia State 10-6. Neutral Record: WKU 0-0, Georgia State 1-1. Conference Record: WKU 12-5, Georgia State 16-1. Series record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The top two teams in the Sun Belt Conference collide in the regular-season finale when the Georgia State Panthers entertain the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
There is no seeding spot at stake in this contest for next week's conference tournament in New Orleans. The Panthers have locked up the No. 1 seed and Western Kentucky the second slot following its win over Louisiana Thursday night. Both WKU and Georgia State received double-byes to the semifinals of the tournament. This is the 10th straight season the Hilltoppers have made it to the semifinals of the conference tourney.
Georgia State has won six straight and 20 of its last 21 contests, including Tuesday's 79-76 triumph in overtime Tuesday at Arkansas State. Manny Atkins scored a career-high 30 points and hauled in 11 rebounds. Atkins shot 5-of-10 from 3-point range. Ryan Harrow chipped in 18 points, while Devonta White tallied 13 points and six assists.
The Panthers come into this game 12-0 at home, although this will be their first contest as the host team since an 80-77 victory over Louisiana on Feb. 22. The Panthers, who have earned an outright conference title for the first time since the 2000-01 season, have won their last six contests by an average of 14.6 points. R.J. Hunter (18.8 ppg) leads the way offensively for the Panthers, who average 78.3 ppg. Hunter has drained 90 3-point shots this season, which is among the top 15 players in the country. Harrow (17.1 ppg), a redshirt junior, leads the team in assists (4.5). Atkins (14.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) White (11.6 ppg) enters the day 27 points shy of third on the school's all- time list. Georgia State enters the contest No. 2 in the country in fewest turnovers with just 253 this season and are fourth in free throw percentage (.774).
The Hilltoppers have won three of their last four, including Thursday's 75-72 decision. George Fant tallied 18 points and nine boards. Chris Harrison-Docks added 15 points for the Hilltoppers. T.J. Price had 13 points and O'Karo Akamune chipped in 10.
WKU is led offensively by Price (15.4 ppg), who paces the team with 27 steals. Fant (13.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is shooting just 54.9 percent from the charity stripe. Trency Jackson (10.7 ppg) and Harrison-Docks (9.9 ppg) are part of a team that averages 69.0 ppg, although the Hilltoppers allow only 67.2 ppg.
When the Hilltoppers are in close games (decided by 3 points or fewer), they are 6-0 this season. The problem in this matchup is that it is likely to be a double-digit victory for the Panthers. On Jan. 9 this year, Georgia State powered its way to a 77-54 win over WKU. The Hilltoppers shot 28.6 percent from the field, while Georgia State made all 22 of its foul shots. Expect a closer result, but the Panthers should again win by a comfortable margin to complete an unbeaten home schedule.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia State 77, Western Kentucky 66
03/08 10:23:40 ET