Red Wolves, Panthers and Eagles tighten paws and talons on the Sun Belt

The top three teams in the Sun Belt took care of business on weekend home stands, setting up an upcoming showdown between Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Arkansas State and 2nd-place UT-Arlington.

The Red Wolves avenged their only two conference losses, first willing their way past Appalachian State 79-78, then dispatching Coastal Carolina more crisply on Monday night,  67-57. The victory over the Chanticleers was highlighted by an especially demoralizing dunk by 6’7″ junior forward Tomas Bruce.

The win over the Mountaineers was more chore than game, with Appalachian State once again playing their best hoops against the Red Wolves. The Mountaineer’s dangerous 6’5″ sophomore guard, Ronshad Shabazz was brilliant as usual, scoring 19 and grabbing five boards. But Arkansas State’s leading scorer Devin Carter refused to accept defeat, scoring 25 points including 7 clutch free throws.

Now the Red Wolves are atop the Sun Belt standings at 18-6 (9-2) and two wins away from a win total the program hasn’t seen in decades.

Meanwhile, the two Georgia’s closed escrow

Georgia Southern used 13 three-pointers to crush ULM 76-62 on Saturday, then battled a physical Louisiana Cajuns squad to a 74-70 victory. Mike Hughes, 6’3″ junior guard, was a blistering 10 for 14 from the three point line in the two wins, emerging as a third scoring threat to join conference shooting leaders Ike Smith and Tookie Brown.

Three hours north of Statesboro, the Georgia State Panthers continued to pour on the heat, with 6’8″ senior forward Jeremy Hollowell averaging 17.5 points and 6’3″ freshman guard D’Marcus Simonds averaging 15 points in the home stand. Again, the Cajuns proved tough, with the Panthers taking a narrow 85-82 win. Sledding was easier against the Warhawks on Monday when Georgia State trotted home with a 69-55 victory.

The four Sun Belt frontrunners finally start to butt heads this Saturday when Arkansas State visits UTA. Then the Red Wolves and the Georgias mix it up the following week.

Sun Belt Orbit, Week 5

As of this writing, the Sun Belt features two sub-100 RPI programs: UTA (56) and Arkansas State (76)

Sun Belt Standings (Feb 7)

  1. Arkansas State 9-2
  2. Georgia Southern 9-2
  3. Georgia State 9-2
  4. UT-Arlington 7-3
  5. Texas State 6-4
  6. Coastal Carolina 6-5
  7. Troy 4-6
  8. South Alabama 4-6
  9. Louisiana 4-7
  10. Little Rock 4-7
  11. ULM 1-10
  12. Appalachian State 1-10

UT-Arlington got their terrible revenge against Texas State

Erick Neal and Jorge Bilbao chipped in 13 apiece to help Kevin Hervey (19 pts) and the Mavericks coldly dispatch in-state rival Texas State 76-61. The Bobcats had handed UTA its first conference loss earlier in the year, but this time the Mavs managed to limit Texas State’s 6’7″ senior forward Kavin Gilder-Tilbury to 15 points. 

Louisiana programs continues to tank

ULM never challenged Georgia Southern and Georgia State this weekend, but the Cajuns lost to both by a total of seven points. The physical Cajuns might be just unlucky, but the Warhawks are simply bad, falling to 1-10 on the season in conference.

Touching the Sun: Mike Hughes, Georgia Southern

The 6’3″ junior guard is averaging a little over 11 points per season for the Eagles, but the man hit 10 of 14 three pointers his last two games, earning all the fire emojis this Sun Belt Weekend.

Falling the Earth: Chanticleers 3 Point Shooting

Coastal three point shooters are the heroes who lived long enough to see themselves become the villain.

Game To Savor: Arkansas State vs. UT-Arlington, Saturday, February 11

The Red Wolves take on a huge conference test when it takes on the preseason Sun Belt favorite Mavericks in Arlington. Buckle up, Sun Belt.

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