NEW ORLEANS – Jay Wright scored 18 of his game-high 27 points in the second half, but Georgia State used a 19-6 run in the first half and held off a late rally by the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, 86-76, in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Men’s Basketball Championships at Lakefront Arena.
Freshman D’ Marcus Simonds scored 17 points to lead four players in double figures as No. 2-seeded Georgia State (20-11) advanced to face the Georgia Southern-Troy winner in the semifinals on Saturday at 2 p.m. Louisiana, which had its seven-game winning streak snapped, fell to 21-12 on the season.
Louisiana opened the game with a 7-2 run that was capped by a Frank Bartley 3-pointer, and led 12-8 on a Johnathan Stove jumper with 12:30 left in the first half before GSU rallied behind a 24-15 advantage on the glass in the opening stanza to take the lead for good.
A dunk by Jordan Session and a 3-pointer by Simonds helped the Panthers to a 13-12 lead before two free throws by Devin Mitchell with 8:59 remaining in the half gave Georgia State the lead for good, 15-13.
The Panthers took a 27-18 lead on a layup by Malik Benlevi with 4:50 left in the half before the sophomore gave Georgia State its biggest lead of the half, 35-24, with a layup with 55 seconds left.
After Wright sank a pair of free throws to open the second half, Georgia State took its biggest lead of the game as the Panthers went on an 8-0 run to take a 43-28 lead with 17:39 remaining.
Three straight buckets by Jerekius Davis helped Louisiana close to within 66-60 with 5:40 remaining, but that would be as close as the Ragin’ Cajuns would get as Georgia State would eventually push the lead to 76-66 on a Ishiah Dennis bucket with 1:47 left.
Bryce Washington added 17 points for Louisiana with Stove adding 14. The Ragin’ Cajuns finished 24-for-63 (38.1 percent) from the floor and was 5-for-26 from behind the 3-point line.
Hollowell added 16 points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds for Georgia State with Benlevi adding 15 points and Isaiah Williams 14. The Panthers held a 44-31 lead on the glass and made 27 of 37 free throws (73.0 percent) for the game.