Senior Malik Benlevi scored a career-high for a second-straight game to lead the Panthers to an 80-76 win on the road at Tulane on Wednesday afternoon.
Benlevi finished with 25 points, knocking down five 3-pointers to go along with five rebounds, four blocked shots, and four steals. A week ago to the day, the Savannah, Ga., native scored 24 points on eight 3-pointers against in-state foe Georgia in the Cayman Islands.
Georgia State (5-2) also got 21 points from Sun Belt Conference scoring leader D’Marcus Simonds and 16 points from redshirt-junior Damon Wilson. Simonds finished 7-of-14 from the floor and dished out five assists, while Wilson was 5-of-8 with four boards in just 24 minutes.
Tulane (2-4) trailed by as many as 17 in the second half before cutting Georgia State’s lead to just four with just under two minutes to play. The Green Wave were led by Kevin Zhang who scored 23 points, while Caleb Daniels finished with 17.
The Panthers are off to a 5-2 start for the fourth time in the last five years and are currently 3-1 on a six-game stretch away from home.
“This is another really good road win,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “Winning on the road is always hard, but I thought we came together as a team and played well. Malik is really locked in right now and playing the way a senior captain should. All of these games will make us better later in the season.”
Simonds moved into sixth place on Georgia State’s all-time scoring list with 1,281 points, moving ahead of James Andrews.
Tulane took an early 11-5 lead just over four minutes into the game as the Panthers adjusted to the early start time.
Georgia State started to take control with back-to-back 3-pointers by Simonds and Benlevi that gave the Panthers a 24-17 lead with 10:53 to play in the first half. It was part of a stretch where four straight made field goals for the Panthers came from 3-point range.
Leading by two, Georgia State used another 6-0 run capped by a Nelson Phillips 3-pointer to lead 32-24 with 5:51 to play. Phillips came off the bench to score seven points and grab four rebounds in 17 minutes.
Another Benlevi 3-pointer pushed the lead to 13, 44-31 at the half, as the Panthers went 8-of-17 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes.
Despite a size advantage, Tulane was outrebounded by the Panthers 19-11 in the first half.
Georgia State pushed the lead to 17 points before Tulane used a 9-0 run to trail by just eight, 50-42, with 14:09 to play. The Panthers immediately responded with 3-pointers by Benlevi and Simonds to go back up 58-44 with 11:55 remaining.
The Green Wave continued to chip into Georgia State’s lead and got as close as four points multiple times over the final two minutes, but could not get any closer as the Panthers knocked down their free throws.
Georgia State improved to 8-3 in New Orleans since the start of the 2013-14 season and 14-5 in the state of Louisiana since that time.
After traveling home tonight, Georgia State will return to the road to face Liberty on Saturday. Tip is set for 6 p.m., from Lynchburg, Va.