What You Need to Know:
* No. 2 seed Georgia State dropped a hard-fought game to No. 6-seed Troy 74-63 in the Sun Belt Championship semifinals on Saturday.
* Junior Isaiah Williams led the Panthers with 19 points, while senior Jeremy Hollowell added 15.
* Georgia State will now wait to learn its postseason fate which could include the NIT, CBI or CIT.
NEW ORLEANS-Despite 19 points from Isaiah Williams, cold second-half shooting led Troy to a 74-63 win over Georgia State in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Championship on Saturday afternoon at Lakefront Arena.
After leading by as many as 15 points in the first half, Georgia State shot just 24.1 percent in the second half, being outscored 46-26 after the intermission.
Georgia State fell to 20-12, while No. 6-seed Troy improved to 21-14 to advance to Sunday’s conference championship game against No. 4-seed Texas State.
Senior Jeremy Hollowell added 15 points, but just one after the break, and Sun Belt Freshman of the Year D’Marcus Simonds scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds in the loss.
Troy finished with four players in double figures led by Wesley Person who scored 16, knocking down three 3-pointers. Jordan Varnado just missed a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds.
“We tip our cap to Troy,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “We were able to put them in a big hole in the first half, but they continued to claw back and we didn’t have an answer for it. Our Achilles heel all year long was turnovers and once again it cost us today.”
Georgia State turned the ball over 17 times and shot an uncharacteristically low 27.3 percent from 3-point range. The Panthers finished the game shooting just 36.2 percent after leading the Sun Belt in field goal percentage this year.
Georgia State took an early 12-4 lead as Hollowell scored 10 before Troy was able to knock down its first field goal with 14:45 remaining in the first half.
Clayton followed with five-straight Georgia State points to extend the lead to 17-9 with 14:07 remaining, before Troy responded with an 11-0 run to take a 20-17 lead with 9:57 left. Troy held the Panthers scoreless for more than four minutes before a Hollowell free throw.
Trailing 22-21, Georgia State responded with a 16-0 run, started by back-to-back 3-pointers from Williams and Hollowell to push the lead to 37-22 with 3:09 to play. The Trojans would score the final six points of the half, but Georgia State still went into the locker room leading 37-28, holding Troy to 28.0 percent shooting and just 2-of-14 from 3-point range.
Troy slowly chipped into Georgia State’s lead early in the second half and finally took the lead 48-46 with 11:55 to play.
Georgia State would retake the lead 55-54 on a free throw by Hollowell with 5:56 to play, but Troy responded with seven-straight points and Georgia State would never get closer than four points again with just over three minutes to play.
Georgia State will wait to see its postseason fate which could include one of three tournaments: NIT, CIT or CBI. That announcement is expected on Sunday evening.
Notes: Georgia State fell to 4-3 in conference tournament games since returning to the league four years ago…The Panthers fell to 26-32 all-time in conference tournament games…Senior Isaiah Dennis could enter postseason play just one win shy of Georgia State’s all-time career wins record of 87.