LAFAYETTE (press release) – JaKeenan Gant scored a game-high 23 points, going 8-for-11 from the floor with three 3-pointers, and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns weathered a 21-0 scoring run by Georgia State to earn a 76-72 victory in a Sun Belt Conference game on Friday before a raucous crowd of 4,814 at the Cajundome.
Cedric Russell added 14 points for Louisiana (14-10, 5-6 SBC), which snapped a three-game losing streak while defeating Georgia State (16-8, 7-4 SBC) for the first time since an 87-54 victory on Jan. 16, 2016.
Trajan Wesley came off the bench to score 10 points, including a clutch 3-pointer with 3:24 remaining, while Justin Miller grabbed 13 rebounds and iced the game with a pair of free throws with 1.3 seconds left.
Louisiana built a nine-point lead in the first five minutes of the game and extended its lead to 34-19 after Gant sank a pair of free throws with 4:48 remaining in the first half. Wesley would later connect on two free throws for a 41-26 lead with 30 seconds remaining in the half before GSU added four free throws to cut the deficit to 41-30 at halftime.
The Panthers then scored the first 17 points of the second half, taking advantage of a 0-for-9 start from the floor by Louisiana. D’Marcus Simonds gave GSU a 42-41 lead with a 3-pointer with 16:26 left before a dunk by Malik Benlevi and a second 3-pointer by Simonds stretched the lead to 47-41 at the 14:25 mark.
A 3-pointer by Russell with 14:10 remaining halted the scoreless streak for the Ragin’ Cajuns, and Louisiana would tie the game at 49-all on a 3-pointer by P.J. Hardy.
Georgia State would regain the lead and eventually take a 64-59 lead on Nelson Phillips’ 3-pointer with 6:45 left. But Wesley would convert on a three-point play and would tie the game with a pair of free throws after getting steal with 6:16 remaining.
Louisiana would take the lead for good on a bucket by Gant with 4:05 left and after a miss by GSU’s Kane Williams on the following possession, Wesley connected on his first 3-pointer since going 2-for-2 against Toledo on Nov. 20, 2018, to give the Ragin’ Cajuns a four-point lead.
Georgia State closed the gap to two points – the last coming on Devin Mitchell’s layup with 44 seconds remaining, but Louisiana would answer as Marcus Stroman sank a pair of free throws at the 1:01 mark before Miller’s free throws sealed the win.
Louisiana finished 23-for-56 (41 percent) from the floor, 10-for-27 (37 percent) from behind the 3-point line and was 20-for-23 from the charity stripe. The Ragin’ Cajuns held a 32-28 advantage on the glass while scoring 18 points off 13 GSU turnovers.
Mitchell scored 17 of his team-high 21 points in the second half to lead GSU, which went 6-for-10 from behind the 3-point line in the second half after going 0-for-7 in the first. Simonds finished with 19 points for the Panthers with Phillips adding 14 points and Williams 11.
Louisiana will return to action on Saturday (Feb. 16) when it plays host to ULM to wrap up a three-game homestand. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and will be televised live on ESPN+.