TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Georgia State stormed back from a 22-point second half deficit to knock off Alabama 83-80 on a walk-off 3-pointer from forward Malik Benlevi.
With 25 seconds left, Georgia State (6-3) milked the clock with the game tied at 80. The ball swung around the perimeter until it found a wide-open Benlevi who swished a 3-pointer as time expired. The refs went to the monitor to review it, but it was clear Benlevi got the ball out of his hands in time.
Benlevi was one of four Georgia State players to score in double figures, putting in 16 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. Georgia State guard D’Marcus Simonds had a game-high 23 points. Georgia State’s Jeff Thomas and Kane Williams added 14 and 12 points, respectively.
After scoring 31 points in the first half, Georgia State scored 44 in the final 14 minutes to close Alabama out.
“Wow,” Georgia State coach Ron Hunter said. “Really, really proud of our kids. What a great win for us.”
Four Alabama players scored in double digits in the losing effort. Freshman guard Kira Lewis Jr. led the Tide with 19 points, including knocking down five 3s on the night. Junior Dazon Ingram had a strong showing off the bench with a season-high 17. Senior forward Donta Hall recorded his third double-double of the year with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while junior forward Tevin Mack started in his first game this season and put in 12 points.
Alabama (5-3) came out hot for the first 20 minutes, shooting 59 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three, making 8 of 19.
The Crimson Tide jumped out to an 18-9 lead. Georgia State cut the lead to five before Alabama used a 17-2 run over a 3:34 stretch to increase its lead to 47-29. The Tide led going into halftime, 52-31.
Georgia State came out sluggish in the opening half, but turned up the defensive pressure in the second. Alabama shot just 29 percent in the second half, making only seven shots and just 2 of 9 from distance.
Georgia State outscored Alabama 52-28 after halftime. The second half saw Georgia State capitalize on a long offensive drought from Alabama. The Crimson Tide was unable to hit a field goal for a span of 9:18 over the course of the second half.
Alabama coach Avery Johnson called it a “tale of two halves.”
“I’m the coach, and I’m the one responsible,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “Not the players. It’s me.”
This is the type of loss that can kill a team’s resume when it comes time to earn an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Alabama had a golden opportunity to beat a potential tournament team, but picked the worst time to go cold from the field. That’s now back-to-back tough losses after Alabama lost to UCF in Orlando last week.
For Georgia State, the win is a good boost for the team’s confidence, but even Hunter acknowledged that is doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. Hunter said it’s all about getting ready to play in January and February when it’s time for the Sun Belt Conference tournament. The win helped Georgia State rebound from a 78-52 loss at Liberty last week.
The off-guard position in college basketball has a lot of intriguing questions heading into the 2018-19 season.
While the group is headlined by some strong returning players and some five-star freshmen, it seems as though many of the players on this list still have something to prove. Whether that is perimeter shooting, becoming a more complete player or bringing more consistency, the off-guard spot in college hoops could be in a great place this season if many of these guys make standard improvements.
Here’s a look at 20 of the key off-guards to watch this season.
1. CALEB MARTIN, Nevada, Sr.
The reigning Mountain West Player of the Year nearly left for the NBA before deciding to return with his twin brother, Cody, at the 11th hour. With the Martin twins back in the fold, many are projecting Nevada as a top-ten preseason team. Caleb had a huge junior season as he put up 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game as he was the clear go-to player on a deep Wolf Pack team.
Also a 40 percent three-point shooter, Martin’s ability to score from all over the floor is what separates him from many of his peers and it helps make Nevada’s offense one of the best in the country. This season, Martin won’t have to do as much since he’s playing on a veteran team that should be significantly deeper. But don’t discount Martin having a huge year and potentially vaulting into All-American status.
2. QUENTIN GRIMES, Kansas, Fr.
The prized pledge of another solid Kansas recruiting class, the 6-foot-5 Grimes should have a huge impact on the Jayhawks this season. The former McDonald’s All-American really came into his own as a more complete guard during his senior season as some believed he was the best guard prospect in the Class of 2018.
Capable of playing the one, but more likely to play the two given the Kansas backcourt situation, Grimes is a tough-minded two-way player who can score or distribute. The key for the reigning MVP of the 2018 FIBA Americas will be perimeter shooting. If Grimes can consistently knock down three-pointers then the Jayhawks should have an incredibly dangerous offense.
3. ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana, Fr.
Huge expectations will be lingering over Langford’s head all season, as the Hoosier faithful are hoping this in-state product can return Indiana basketball to glory. The former Mr. Basketball in Indiana is one of the most celebrated high school players to ever come out of the basketball-crazy state after putting up monster numbers.
At 6-foot-6, Langford is capable of 40-point outbursts where he’s scoring from all over the floor. Also a capable wing defender thanks to his length and athleticism, Langford is a likely one-and-done prospect if he lives up to his five-star billing. Consistency will be one of the keys to watch for with Langford. For as good as he can be, Langford had a tendency to disappear for minutes at a time for portions of his grassroots career. As long as Langford is engaged, he should be a force in the Big Ten.
4. LINDELL WIGGINTON, Iowa State, So.
After an impressive freshman season in which he was fifth in the Big 12 in scoring, Wigginton gets his chance to shine on a much deeper and more talented Iowa State team this season. Averaging 16.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range, the 6-foot-2 Wigginton showed natural ability as a scorer last season, as he’ll look to become more of a complete guard in his second season.
Testing the NBA waters this offseason, Wigginton can enhance his national reputation, and pro stock, by helping the Cyclones win games after the team finished only 13-18 last season. With another year to grow, and more help around him, Wigginton should be among the Big 12’s leading scorers once again.
5. JALEN HUDSON, Florida, Sr.
The leading scorer for the Gators last season, the 6-foot-6 Hudson will be counted on for points once again this season. It’s going to be the other things Hudson can give Florida that ultimately helps dictate how they might finish.
If Hudson can show more leadership, while also helping to set up teammates, then he’ll help offset the huge loss of point guard Chris Chiozza. The Gators don’t have an obvious replacement at lead guard for Chiozza, so Hudson’s impact in the backcourt beyond scoring will be something to keep an eye on. Even if Hudson is only trying to get buckets, he’s a 40 percent three-point shooter who put up 15.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season. The Gators just ideally need him to contribute a bit of everything.
6. KELLAN GRADY, Davidson, So.
Putting together the best freshman season at Davidson since Steph Curry, the 6-foot-5 Grady made his own mark for the Wildcats last season. Although not quite as gifted a perimeter shooter as Curry (but really, who is?) Grady is no slouch in that department after shooting 50 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range while averaging 18.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
With Davidson leading scorer Peyton Aldridge moving on from the program, the reigning A-10 Rookie of the Year is going to be the go-to guy for a Wildcats team with NCAA tournament aspirations. Since Davidson doesn’t have a lot of experienced pieces returning from last season’s tournament squad, then we could be seeing a lot of 20-point games from Grady.
7. KY BOWMAN, Boston College, Jr.
Although backcourt running mate and NBA first-round pick Jerome Robinson received much of the attention for Boston College last season, Bowman also had a monster campaign. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-1 Bowman averaged 17.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game while shooting 36 percent from three-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
A North Carolina native who seems to play at his best when facing the in-state teams that passed him over in the ACC, Bowman just missed a triple-double in a win over Duke last year. Now that Robinson is gone, Bowman will be asked to do even more this season, as the Eagles are going to be counting on Bowman for a potential All-American season. If Bowman can lift his three-point percentage closer to the 44 percent he shot as a freshman, then he could very well reach that status.
8. MUSTAPHA HERON, St. John’s, Jr.
Immediately eligible after the NCAA gave him a hardship waiver, the 6-foot-5 Heron is a monster addition for the Red Storm. Coupled with a potential All-American at point in Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s now has one of the best backcourt tandems in all of college basketball.
Spending his first two seasons at Auburn, Heron averaged 16.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Tigers as a sophomore. The 220-pound Heron and his power and athleticism should pair well with Ponds’ slippery ability to get to the basket as the duo should be immensely fun to watch this season.
If Heron can find his three-point consistency like he showed during freshman season (42 percent from three-point range) then his perimeter shooting would also greatly open things up for Ponds as he attacks off the dribble.
9. KRIS WILKES, UCLA, So.
Quietly putting up good numbers as a freshman last season, the 6-foot-8 Wilkes was second on the Bruins in scoring and rebounding at 13.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Now the versatile perimeter threat will be asked to become a team leader on a young, but talented, Bruins team.
Wilkes flirted with staying in the NBA Draft, but by coming back for another year in the Pac-12, he has a chance to improve his average 35 percent three-point shooting while displaying more overall leadership for an intriguing team. Potentially an All-Pac-12 player with a big season, Wilkes will get asked to take a lot of big shots at UCLA this season.
10. MATISSE THYBULLE, Washington, Sr.
The offensive numbers won’t jump out at you. That doesn’t mean this 6-foot-5 senior doesn’t make a giant impact on all of Washington’s games. The Pac-12’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Thybulle can make game-changing defensive plays on one end while contributing quite a bit to other facets of the game.
Thybulle scored 11.2 points per game while getting 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game last season. But getting 3.0 steals per game and 1.4 blocks per game had an immense impact on a Washington team that finally showed signs of life on the defensive end. Also a 36 percent three-point shooter, Thybulle is the perfect three-and-d wing for a Washington team with a sneaky amount of talent this season.
11. ZACH NORVELL, Gonzaga, So.
Gonzaga’s most consistent and versatile scorer has a chance to be a better all-around player as a sophomore. The 6-foot-5 Norvell put up 12.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 37 percent from three-point range. If Norvell improves defensively, then he’ll be one of college basketball’s best two-way guards.
12. NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER, Virginia Tech, So.
Consistency will be the key for this ultra-talented 6-foot-5 guard. There were times last season when Alexander-Walker looked like Virginia Tech’s best players and other games where he was barely contributing. If Alexander-Walker finds a better balance, he could be a force in the ACC this season.
13. KYLE GUY, Virginia, Jr.
A veteran scorer who acts as Virginia’s top perimeter shooter, the 6-foot-2 Guy would put up even bigger scoring numbers in a more uptempo offense. Guy averaged 14.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while shooting 39 percent from three-point range.
14. T.J. GIBBS, Notre Dame, Jr.
Coming on strong during his sophomore season, the 6-foot-3 Gibbs is going to be asked to do even more for a young Fighting Irish team. The good news is that Gibbs is already used to being the main scorer. Gibbs scored double-figures in 19 of 21 ACC games last season while averaging 15.3 points, 3.0 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game.
15. D’MARCUS SIMONDS, Georgia State, Jr.
The reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year made a huge impression by putting up 21.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game last season. If Simonds can improve his woeful 29 percent three-point shooting then he’ll become one of the most complete scorers in the country.
The 6-foot-4 Weatherspoon saw his scoring numbers and three-point percentage dip from sophomore to junior season. But Weatherspoon also became a more well-rounded guard as he nearly doubled his assist total. If Weatherspoon lifts his perimeter shooting, then he could make this ranking look silly.
17. FLETCHER MAGEE, Wofford, Sr.
The SoCon Player of the Year is arguably the best pure shooter in college hoops. Just missing a 50/40/90 season as a junior, MaGee averaged 22.1 points per game while making 4.4 three-pointers per game at a 43 percent clip. Magee is perhaps most well-known for his 27 points in the Dean Dome last season when Wofford upset North Carolina.
18. PHIL BOOTH, Villanova, Sr.
It seems like Booth’s been with the Wildcats forever. This season the 6-foot-3 guard has more of a chance to shine. Already dropping 41 points, and nine three-pointers, on North Carolina in a preseason scrimmage, Booth appears to be ready to take a high number of shots in Villanova’s high-octane offense.
19. BRYCE BROWN, Auburn, Sr.
As dangerous as it gets from the perimeter, the 6-foot-3 Brown led the SEC with 107 made three-pointers last season. Auburn’s uptempo attack gives Brown a lot of makeable shots, as he averaged 15.9 points per game on 38 percent three-point shooting last season.
20. HERB JONES, Alabama, So.
Expectations are very high for the 6-foot-7 Jones to make a major leap this season. A potentially elite two-way guard who shows very strong defensive traits, Jones has the upside to make a leap to the pros. Jones has to expand on the modest minutes and numbers he put up last season, but he has major upside.
Georgia State coach Ron Hunter proposes unique idea for NCAA potentially paying players
Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter shared a unique way that the NCAA could compensate student-athletes as the debate about paying college athletes continues to rage on.
In a candid interview with Atlanta’s NBC 11Alive Sports, Hunter talked about the possibility of the NCAA putting money away in some sort of trust fund that could be accessed after a college career is finished. Since Hunter is a Division I college basketball head coach with a son, R.J., who went on to play in the NBA, he has some interesting qualifications for proposing ideas like this.
“I have always said, from when my son (R.J. Hunter) played (at Georgia State), when a university can sell a young man’s jersey or likeness, I believe that young man should be paid. Maybe not at that time, but put it in a trust fund. If that money is going to the university, it should be paid in a sense—not a stipend. Special talent should be paid. I think the NCAA is moving towards that,” Hunter said.
The idea of the NCAA withholding money from student-athletes and paying them in the future seems a little bit troubling — would schools be transparent with revenue knowing they’d potentially share money with student-athletes? Who would hold them accountable?
But Hunter’s idea could also add some some other interesting wrinkles. Say that the NCAA goes along with this idea and schools started to put money into some sort of fund while players were still in school. Similar to a corporation that gives a 401K and matches contributions from its employees, schools could work to benefit student-athletes who stuck around longer.
Some college basketball programs have resorted to paying coaches with stock options, most notably Arizona’s Sean Miller, who has a “longevity bonus” that was given to him in 2014 by an Arizona booster. Miller’s bonus payment is due in May 2020 as the vested share in the stock was worth $4.1 million as of early April.
The hypothetical student-athletes involved in this scenario wouldn’t receive nearly as much as the example provided for Sean Miller. Maybe the funds come from the school itself or a booster like in Miller’s case. If the trust is controlled until a player turns pro then maybe the NCAA would somehow allow that within its sanctity of “amateurism.”
It’s an evolving idea to throw around to potentially give student-athletes something more than just a scholarship and a stipend. Either way, maybe Hunter is on to something here.
VIDEO Ron Hunter dances at Georgia State’s midnight madness
On Thursday night, at the third annual GSU Jam, Hunter broke out the dance moves to the song “Hit The Quan” by iHeart Memphis.
Georgia State went on to defeat No. 3 seed Baylor in the Round of 64, thanks to a game-winning three from Hunter’s son, R.J. That shot made for one of the best moments of March Madness, as Ron Hunter fell of his rolling chair in disbelief.
R.J. Hunter is nowa a rookie with the Boston Celtics. Ron Hunter enters his fifth season with the Panthers.
Ron Hunter may not be recovered from his ruptured achilles tendon yet, but the Georgia State head coach is still competing at a level above his program’s conference.
Late on Wednesday night, Hunter landed a commitment from D’Marcus Simonds, a talented, 6-foot-4 shooting guard. Simonds was originally committed to Mississippi State but he reopened his recruitment after Rick Ray was fired by the university.
“There’s no place like home!” Simonds, a native of Buford, Georgia, said on twitter. “I will be continuing my basketball career and education at Georgia State University!”
Simonds is one of the more talented guards in the south, the No. 84 recruit in the Class of 2016, according to Rivals. Simonds will be a nice piece for Hunter to build around, as he’ll arrive on campus after Kevin Ware graduates and when Indiana transfer Jeremy Hollowell is a senior. Former top 150 recruit and Alabama transfer Devin Mitchell will be a sophomore that year as well.
Georgia State is coming off of an upset win over No. 3 Baylor in the opening round of the 2015 NCAA tournament.
Georgia State has been active recruiting transfers the last few offseasons and the Panthers and head coach Ron Hunter landed a commitment from former Alabama guard Devin Mitchell, he announced.
The 6-foot-4 Mitchell is a former Rivals top-150 prospect but only saw limited action during his freshman season with the Crimson Tide. With Alabama hiring a new head coach in Avery Johnson, it was probably best for a fresh start for both parties. Mitchell played 76 total minutes during the 2014-15 season and scored nine points and tallied four assists. He struggled from the field, going 3-for-23 and 2-for-17 from 3-point range.
The Sun Belt might be a better fit for Mitchell and Hunter has found a lot of success taking in transfers. Ryan Harrow had a successful two-year run at Georgia State after transferring from Kentucky and former Louisville guard Kevin Ware also made his way to the Panthers.