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Hot shooting second half lifts Panthers past Louisiana Thursday

ATLANTA (Press Release) – Jeff Thomas scored 14 of his 17 points early in the first half and Georgia State made 13 of 25 attempts from behind the 3-point line to hold off Louisiana, 89-76, in a Sun Belt Conference game on Thursday at the GSU Sports Arena.

D’Marcus Simonds scored 21 points to lead GSU (12-4, 3-0 SBC) while Malik Benlevi added 15 points and Devin Mitchell 13. The Panthers shot 66 percent from the floor in the second half, including a 7-for-10 performance from behind the 3-point line, and shot 52 percent (31-for-60) for the game.

Louisiana (10-6, 1-2 SBC), which was led by JaKeenan Gant’s 36 points and 11 rebounds, took its only lead of the game – 27-25 – on a bucket by Gant with 2:27 remaining in the first half before baskets by Simonds and Benlevi put GSU back on top.

Jerekius Davis, who scored 11 points and added a pair of blocks, knotted the game at 29-all with a jumper before Benlevi sank a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the first half to give GSU a 32-29 lead at intermission.

The basket by Benlevi, who finished 6-for-8 from the floor, began a 10-0 run the Panthers as GSU opened the second half to take a 39-29 lead after a pair of buckets by Simonds sandwiched around a 3-pointer by Benlevi.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Kane Williams and Devin Mitchell pushed GSU’s lead to 50-36 with 15: 18 remaining. Mitchell, who scored all of his points in the second half, gave the Panthers a 53-41 lead with 14:05 remaining before Louisiana began to chip away at the lead.

Gant, who finished 14-for-21 from the floor, started a 9-2 run for the Ragin’ Cajuns with a pair of baskets before Jeremy Hayes drained a 3-pointer and Marcus Stroman sank a pair of free throws that closed the gap to 55-50 at the 11:13 mark.

Louisiana got as close as 61-58 on a bucket by Gant with 9:11 left, but a pair of free throws by Simonds and three straight buckets were part of a 9-0 run that pushed the lead to 70-58. The Panthers added another 9-0 run as Nelson Phillips scored back-to-back buckets with Simonds sinking a pair of free throws and hitting a 3-pointer for a 79-63 lead with 4:20 left.

Justin Miller added a double-double for Louisiana scoring 13 points and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds. Cedric Russell added eight points for the Ragin’ Cajuns while Stroman scored five points with nine rebounds and nine assists.

Louisiana will return to action on Saturday (Jan. 12) when it concludes its two-game trip to the Peach State with a Saturday afternoon contest against Georgia Southern (10-6, 2-1 SBC). Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m., CT and will be streamed live on ESPN+.

Andrew Clay

Andrew Clay

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