PENSACOLA, Fla. – Corey Allen scored 18 of his game-high 21 points in the first half while Eliel Nsoseme broke a 71-all tie to start a decisive 13-2 run to lead Georgia State to an 84-73 win over the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference Championships on Sunday at the Pensacola Bay Center.
Ryan Boyce came off the bench to score 13 points with Kane Williams adding 11 and Jalen Thomas 10 as Georgia State (16-5), the No. 1 seed from the SBC East Division, built a 19-point lead in the opening half before Louisiana (17-9) would storm back to tie the game on Dou Gueye’s 3-pointer with 7:28 remaining.
Georgia State advanced to Monday’s SBC Championship Game where it will face the winner of Sunday night’s semifinal contest between Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina.
Cedric Russell scored 20 points for Louisiana, which trailed 52-33 late in the first half before using a 36-17 run to swing the momentum. The Ragin’ Cajuns opened the second half with a 17-5 run that began with seven straight points from Russell before Mylik Wilson’s layup cut the deficit to 53-44 with 17:25 remaining.
After Louisiana got as close as 64-59 on Devin Butts’ 3-pointer with 10:57 remaining, Georgia State would eventually get the lead back to eight points after Williams scored on a layup for a 68-60 advantage.
A bucket by Russell and Gueye’s 3-pointer would cap a 9-1 run by Louisiana and forge a 69-all tie and put the Ragin’ Cajuns into position to record its 11th win of the season when trailing at halftime and its fifth victory in an unorthodox 2020-21 NCAA Basketball season that was affected by the COVID pandemic.
A 23-8 disparity in fouls led to a 16-point advantage from the free throw line for the Panthers, who made 22 of 30 attempts while Louisiana managed to go 6-for-10 from the stripe.
Boyce sank a pair of free throws that put the Panthers back up, 71-69, with 7:18 left and after Gueye’s bucket at the 6:34 mark knotted the score again, Georgia State would take the lead for good.
Nsoseme, who posted a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds, made the second of two free throws for a 72-71 lead before Evan Johnson went coast-to-coast off a Ragin’ Cajuns miss and Boyce would add a bucket for a 76-71 lead with 4:15 left.
Louisiana, which missed nine of its last 10 shots down the stretch, would go nearly six minutes without a point until Wilson’s layup in the final minute stopped a 12-0 run that included seven free throws by the Panthers in 10 attempts.
Georgia State finished 28-for-62 (45.2 percent) from the floor and was 6-for-10 from behind the 3-point line in the first half before going 0-for-6 in the second.
Russell, who scored a season-low five points in Saturday’s win over South Alabama, moved past Todd Hill (1990-93) into 22nd place on the Ragin’ Cajuns all-time scoring list with 1,409 points. Wilson added 19 points, six rebounds and six assists for Louisiana while Gueye and Theo Akwuba scored eight points each.
Louisiana finished 29-for-68 (42.6 percent) from the floor while holding Georgia State to 8-for-24 (33.3 percent) from the floor in the second half.
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