Louisiana Monroe, winners of only two conference games all season and the 12 seed in the Sun Belt Tournament, sent shockwaves through the Bayou on Wednesday, taking down fifth-seeded Arkansas State 73-70 in overtime.
The Red Wolves, winners of 20 regular season games for the first time since 1990-91, fell behind early to the Warhawks 13-4, but chipped away as the first half wore on.
A Devin Carter free throw gave the Red Wolves a 28-27 lead with 2:41 remaining in the half, and Arkansas State finished the period with a 12-1 run, paced by Donte Thomas’s 12 points and Tamas Bruce’s 10 more.
ULM scored the first nine points of the second half, however, to knot the score up at 37, before the Red Wolves pushed their lead back to seven with 10 minutes to go.
Senior point guard Nick Coppola hit two big threes and converted a layup and free throw to cap a 13-6 run that gave ULM a 56-54 lead with three minutes remaining. From there, the two teams traded baskets after a Deven Simms layup tied the game at 56.
With the score tied at 60, Arkansas State had the ball for the last shot, and Rashad Lindsey’s three fell off the mark in the final seconds. Simms had a great chance for a put-back that rolled off the rim to send the game into overtime.
The Warhawks were the beneficiaries of poor free throw shooting from the Red Wolves throughout the game, as Arkansas State went 10-22 at the line and took advantage of four key overtime misses.
Marcus Washington scored six points in the extra session as ULM had all five starters finish in double figures, with Coppola leading the way with 15 points.
Thomas finished with 22 points and Carter scored 10, but only went 1-6 from behind the arc.
ULM will take on fourth-seeded Texas State in quarterfinal action on Friday.
Coastal Carolina 80, South Alabama 67
Elijah Wilson hit four threes and had 16 points as Coastal Carolina knocked down 11 treys to fend off South Alabama on Wednesday.
The ninth-seeded Jaguars had a strong opening 11 minutes and led the Chanticleers 27-21 at the 8:51 mark, thanks to 10 points from senior Ken Williams.
Coastal Carolina then ripped off a 23-5 spurt to end the half, thanks to four threes to take a 44-32 lead to the break.
A Shaq Calhoun triple to open the second half cut the margin to nine, but the Jaguars would not get any closer than that as the Chanticleers got great bench work from forwards Amidou Bamba and Josh Coleman, who each scored 10 points.
Collectively, Coastal Carolina had 25 assists on 29 made field goals, including seven apiece from Jaylen Shaw and Colton Ray-St Cyr.
Williams finished with 18 points to lead the Jaguars.
The top-seeded Mavericks of UT Arlington await the Chanticleers on Friday.
Louisiana 78, Little Rock 71
Trailing by a point at halftime, the hottest team heading into the Sun Belt Tournament stayed alive by scoring 48 second-half points, as Louisiana defeated the defending conference champion Little Rock on Wednesday.
A back-and-forth first half saw the two teams trade the lead multiple times before the Trojans inched ahead 31-30 at the break.
The Ragin’ Cajuns, winners of six straight games heading into the conference tournament, had a strong opening 10 minutes of the second half, outscoring Little Rock 25-14 to take a 55-45 lead with 9:53 to go.
Jalen Jackson’s jumper made it 63-59 with 2:08 remaining, but free throws played a big part in Louisiana’s victory. It hit 15 of its last 16, with Jay Wright hitting five of six from the charity stripe.
For their efforts, the Ragin’ Cajuns get second-seeded Georgia State on Friday.
Wright led the way with 24 points, with 18 coming in the second half and went 12-13 from the foul line in the final 20 minutes. Justin Miller had 20 points on 7-9 shooting, including 3-4 from beyond the arc.
Marcus Johnson, Jr. led the Trojans with 14 points, and Kemy Osse added 13 for Little Rock.
Troy 84, Appalachian State 64
Wesley Person made five of his six three-point attempts on his way to 28 points, to carry the sixth-seeded Trojans past the Mountaineers in the nightcap.
The 11th-seeded Mountaineers hung with Troy in the first half after falling behind by 12 with 3:25 to go. Ultimately, they trailed 37-30 at the break.
Ronshad Shabazz’s layup at the 15:38 mark cut it to 47-44, but Person drilled a three on the ensuing possession to make it a six-point game. Appalachian State never drew closer.
Jordon Varnado had a solid night, putting up 17 points, and Jeremy Hollimon added 16 for Troy, who will take on third-seeded Georgia Southern on Friday.
Shabazz finished with 22 points for Appalachian State.