ATLANTA — The streaks came crashing down in a big way Thursday night.
UL-Lafayette’s men's basketball squad had won 10 in a row, all by double-digit margins, in Sun Belt Conference play and hadn’t lost a Sun Belt game in more than a calendar year.
Apparently, Georgia State was not impressed, as the host Panthers put on an offensive clinic in running away with a 106-92 victory to tighten up the league race.
GSU (19-6, 10-2) only trailed once in the game, led by as many as 11 points late in the first half and by 20 points on two occasions in the final half in handing the Ragin' Cajuns (20-4, 10-1) their first league loss and their first defeat of any kind since late December.
UL-Lafayette went into the game leading the Sun Belt defensively, holding opponents to about 60 points per game, but Georgia State reached that figure about three minutes into the second half and never looked back.
“We couldn’t control their guards, and they beat us to the glass,” said Cajuns coach Bob Marlin. “We didn’t play defense very well and we got beat on the glass, and I didn’t think that would happen.”
It marked the second straight season that the Panthers put up triple digits on the Cajuns after taking a 101-86 win in Lafayette last year. UL-Lafayette allowed its most points since falling at Texas-Arlington 108-71 last January.
In fact, since the last triple-digit output by an opponent, that coming last Feb. 11 in a 100-88 loss at Troy, the Cajuns had won 16 straight Sun Belt games, and entered Thursday’s game with the nation’s ninth-longest win streak.
Now, it’s Georgia State that has won 10 in a row in the league, moving within one half-game of the Cajuns in the league standings. It also doesn’t get much easier for UL-Lafayette, with the Cajuns playing the second half of their Georgia road swing Saturday at third-place Georgia Southern, which was upset by UL-Monroe 65-64 at home on Thursday night.
“The good thing is that we’re still in first place,” Marlin said, “but we’re not going to be in first place long if we don’t play better than that. We just have to go and take care of business.”
The Panthers shot 54.4 percent from the field and hit 12 of 27 3-pointers. More surprisingly, Georgia State outrebounded the Cajuns by double digits (43-33) and outscored the Cajuns 48-30 in the paint. UL-Lafayette entered the game leading the conference in rebounding by a big margin.
The only rebounding positive for the Cajuns was provided by senior Bryce Washington, who grabbed his sixth rebound with seven minutes left and reached 1,000 rebounds for his career. He became the third player in UL-Lafayette history to get to 1,000 boards, but that was little solace as the Cajuns lost for the fourth time in five outings at the GSU Sports Arena.
Senior Jordan Session had a career-high 22 points, and Sun Belt leading scorer D’Marcus Simonds matched that total to lead six Panthers in double figures. Devin Mitchell had 20 points while Jeff Thomas added 18 points, Malik Benlevi had 13 and Isaiah Williams 11 off the bench, with those six providing all of Georgia State’s scoring.
“Simonds was the key, and we didn’t slow him down,” Marlin said. “He did a good job of getting to the basket.”
Frank Bartley led five Cajuns in double figures with 21 points, while JaKeenan Gant had 18 in his return to his home state. Cedric Russell hit five of seven 3-pointers off the bench for 15 points, and Washington and Johnathan Stove had 10 each.
The Panthers got off to a quick 5-0 lead on Mitchell’s 3-pointer 47 seconds into the game, and the Cajuns only led once. That came on Bartley’s 3-pointer at the 14:11 mark that put UL-Lafayette in front 12-11, but Session drove for a layup 22 seconds later to give GSU the lead for good.
Session also ended an 8-0 run with a layup at the 7:02 mark that gave the Panthers a 30-20 lead, and Simonds’ dunk in transition with 1:38 left in the half put the hosts up 51-40. Bartley scored the final five points of the half, with a 3-pointer and a tip-in just before the horn that kept UL-Lafayette within 51-45 at halftime.
It was still a six-point game seven minutes into the second half, when Bartley’s layup cut GSU’s lead to 67-61, but Williams had back-to-back three-point trips with three free throws and a natural three-point play that stretched the advantage to 73-61 with 12:02 left.
Thomas’ 3-pointer with 7:38 left gave the Panthers their first 20-point lead at 87-67, and the Cajuns never got any closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
UL-LAFAYETTE 75, GEORGIA STATE 60: Simone Fields scored 22 points and six rebounds for the Ragin' Cajuns, who won their second straight road game without trailing in the final three quarters.
Jasmine Thomas added 15 points, nine assists and four rebounds for the Cajuns (12-11, 7-4 Sun Belt), and Ty'Reonne Doucet and Skyler Goodwin each had 12 points.
The Cajuns used a 27-13 second quarter to break open a 16-point halftime lead over Georgia State (5-18, 1-11).