Hunter's second half lifts Panthers past Cajuns
LAFAYETTE — R.J. Hunter scored 28 of his game-high 33 points in the second half as Sun Belt Conference leader Georgia State rallied in the second half to claim a 77-70 victory against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns Thursday at the Cajundome.
Ryan Harrow added 17 points and Manny Atkins scored 11 points with 11 rebounds as Georgia State (13-6, 6-0 SBC) won its 10th consecutive game while handing Louisiana-Lafayette (12-7, 3-3 SBC) its first home loss in nine games.
Elfrid Payton paced the Cajuns with 21 points and nine rebounds while Shawn Long posted his 10th double-double of the season (and 28th of his career) with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Playing before its largest home crowd of the season (3,729), the Cajuns dominated the paint, outscoring Georgia State, 46-16, while adding 23 second-chance points and holding a 49-31 advantage on the glass.
But the Panthers were aided by five of seven shooting from behind the 3-point line in the second half and finishing 25-for-31 from the free throw line, including 13 of 15 in the final 1:28.
“We did a nice job, and showed some toughness defensively, holding them to 17 points with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first half, and then we let (R.J.) Hunter get loose with a couple of shots late and they (GSU) score 25 in the first half,” head coach Bob Marlin said in a university release. “In the second half, we lose him immediately after we don’t score on our opening possession. He got it going for them with a three to open the half. He made shots. He got calls. And he got to the free throw line, and that was a big part of the game.”
Hunter, who was limited to five points on two of four shooting in the first half, finished 8-for-13 from the floor, 5-for-7 from behind the 3-point line and 12 of 14 from the free throw line.
Hunter gave the Panthers a 40-39 lead with a 3-pointer at the 15:17 mark before later draining a 3-pointer from the right wing that gave Georgia State its biggest lead of the game, 50-43, with 12:05 remaining.
The Cajuns would battle back as Long converted a layup for a 56-55 lead before eventually forging a tie at 59 when he made the first of two free throws with 4:47 remaining.
But Hunter would sink a jumper in the lane with 2:42 remaining that tied the game at 62 before Devonta White scored off a Cajun turnover to give the Panthers the lead for good, 64-62, with 2:16 left.
Early in the ballgame, the Cajuns trailed 6-3 after a bucket by White before using an 11-4 run during the next 6:39 to take a 14-10 lead. Payton scored six points in the run as he opened the spurt with a layup before adding a dunk and layup.
After Atkins made one of two free throws to cut the lead to 19-17 with 4:39 left in the first half, the Cajuns answered with an 8-0 run as Payton and Long scored four points each. Payton added a pair of free throws before Long hit a jumper in the lane and followed with a dunk that gave the Cajuns their biggest lead, 27-17.
Louisiana-Lafayette finished 28-for-70 (40 percent) from the floor, 3-for-19 from behind the 3-point line and 11-for-17 from the free throw line.
Bryant Mbamalu added 11 points for the Cajuns while Kasey Shepherd scored nine.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will return to action Saturday at 3 p.m. when it hosts two-time defending SBC Tournament champion Western Kentucky University. The event is designated as a “White Out” game where all fans are encouraged to wear white. The contest will be televised nationally on ESPN2.