Georgia State (12-6) at Louisiana (12-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 23, 8:15 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cajundome (13,500) -- Lafayette, Louisiana. Television: None. Home Record: GSU 7-0, Louisiana 8-0. Away Record: GSU 4-5, Louisiana 3-6. Neutral Record: GSU 1-1, Louisiana 1-0. Conference Record: GSU 5-0, Louisiana 3-2. Series Record: Series is tied, 2-2.
GAME NOTES: The Georgia State Panthers will try to extend their winning streak to 10 games on Thursday night when they head to the Cajundome for a Sun Belt Conference bout with the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns.
Georgia State's season did get off on the right foot, as it opened up with losses in six of its first nine games, but now it's one of the nation's hottest teams with nine straight victories. With their convincing 99-73 triumph over Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday afternoon, the Panthers improved to 5-0 in the league and are the only remaining unbeaten team in the Sun Belt.
Louisiana has an identical overall record as Georgia State (12-6) but lags two games behind in the league standings with a 3-2 conference record. The Cajuns bested Troy on the road on Saturday night, 72-59, and now they return home where they have yet to lose in the Cajundome in eight tries.
The all-time series between these newly-formed conference rivals is tied at 2-2, with Louisiana winning the most recent bout on Jan. 2, 2006, 76-70.
The Panthers asserted their dominance early on in their most recent contest, as they opened up a commanding 30-point lead at the break over UALR and put the game on autopilot from there. They shot 53.1 percent from the field, including a lofty 15-of-34 from 3-point range, and earned plenty of extra possessions by winning the turnover battle, 20-8. All five starters finished in double figures, led by R.J. Hunter, who was 6-of-10 from 3-point range en route to 25 points. Manny Atkins scored 22 points and swiped five steals, Curtis Washington netted 13, while Ryan Harrow (12) and Devonta White (11) each handed out seven assists.
Georgia State has enjoyed great offensive success all season long, shooting just under 48 percent from the field for 79.2 ppg, 7.8 ppg more than it allows, and its turnover margin (+5.9) is one of the best in the nation. Hunter (19.1 ppg) does plenty of damage from beyond the arc (57-of-143) and also shoos 90.5 percent from the foul line. Harrow (17.8 ppg) hands out 4.6 apg, while Atkins (13.9 ppg), White (9.8 ppg, 4.6 apg) and Washington (8.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.8 bpg) round out the strong starting lineup.
The Cajuns managed to overcome their road surroundings last weekend by outshooting Troy from the field, 54.2 percent to 41.1 percent, en route to the 13-point victory. Pacing the winning effort was Shawn Long, who shot 8-of-15 from the field for 18 points, while adding seven rebounds and three blocks as well. Elfrid Payton stuffed the stat sheet as usual with 14 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and Xavian Rimmer contributed 13 points on 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
On the season, Louisiana is the only Sun Belt team to score more than Georgia State, as it pours in 83.6 ppg on 47.3 percent from the field, including 37.5 percent from 3-point range. The squad boasts one of the best inside-outside duos in the nation in Long and Payton. Long tallies 20.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg and 2.9 bpg while also stretching the floor with 17 3-pointers, and Payton patrols the perimeter with 19.7 ppg, 6.2 apg, 5.9 rpg and 2.4 spg all while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. While no one else averages in double figures, five others put up between 5.6 and 8.6 ppg to bring depth to the squad.
While Georgia State has shined in recent weeks, it has yet to face a task as difficult as playing Louisiana in the Cajundome during its current winning streak. It should be a battle wire-to-wire, but expect the Cajuns to outlast the Panthers in a shootout.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana 86, Georgia State 84
01/23 10:19:26 ET