LAFAYETTE – Playing in his final home game in a Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns uniform, senior Bryant…
Cajun Redzone Hoops Insider
Check out the Cajun Redzone for this week's SBC Hoops Insider:
Georgia State* (16-1)---- 23-7
Western Kentucky (11-5)--- 19-10
Arkansas State (9-7)--- 17-11
UALR (9-8)--- 14-15
UT Arlington (8-8)--- 13-15
ULM (6-10)--- 9-15
Troy (5-11)--- 10-18
Texas State (4-12)--- 8-21
South Alabama^ (3-13)--- 9-20
*-Clinched top seed for SBC tournament.
^-Eliminated from consideration for SBC tournament.
CURRENT SBC TOURNAMENT PAIRINGS
1. Georgia State
2. Western Kentucky
4. Arkansas State
6. UT Arlington
Note: Top two seeds receive a double-bye to the semifinals of the SBC tournament, which is March 13-16 in New Orleans. The third and fourth seeds earn a bye to the quarterfinals.
SBC PLAYER OF THE YEAR RACE
Sophomore guard R.J. Hunter sat out Tuesday's win over Arkansas State to rest going into Saturday's game against Western Kentucky, but he still has to be the favorite for the league's top individual honors. Louisiana guard Elfrid Payton and Shawn Long are next in line.
1. Georgia State G R.J. Hunter
Overall stats: 18.8 ppg, .405 3PT, 3.1 3s per game, 1.9 spg, 4.6 rpg, .879 FT.
SBC stats: 19.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.1 3s per game, 2.4 spg, .422 3PT, .888 FT.
2. Louisiana G Elfrid Payton
Overall stats: 19 ppg, 6 apg, 5.7 rpg, 2.3 spg, .519 FG.
SBC stats: 18.4 ppg, 6.4 apg, 5.9 rpg, 2.6 spg, .557 FG.
3. Louisiana F Shawn Long
Overall stats: 19.5 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.8 bpg, .535 FG, .459 3PT.
SBC stats: 17.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.9 bpg, .516 3PT.
AT THE TOP
Georgia State (23-7, 16-1 SBC)
Last week Georgia State went 2-0 and beat Arkansas State on Tuesday and to secure its first outright conference title since 2001. The Panthers have won 20 of their last 21 games, including six in a row. They've already clinched the top seed and a double-bye for the SBC tournament, meaning they'd only need to win two games to take the conference championship.
Louisiana (19-10, 10-6 SBC)
The Cajuns beat South Alabama last week for their seventh win in eight games. Guard Bryant Mbamalu had a career-high 32 points against USA and gives the Cajuns another threat behind guard Elfrid Payton and forward Shawn Long. They must win their final two regular season games – at Western Kentucky and Arkansas State – to finish second in the league and earn a double-bye in the SBC tourney.
Arkansas State (17-11, 9-7 SBC)
The Red Wolves have dropped two straight games to UALR and Georgia State after winning three in a row. They have only a half-game lead over UALR for the fourth seed in the SBC tournament – which includes a bye to the quarterfinals – but control their postseason fortunes with home games this week against ULM and Louisiana.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Louisiana G Bryant Mbamalu
Mbamalu scored a career-high 32 points and tied a personal best with 11 rebounds in last week's 102-74 win over South Alabama in what was his final regular season home game. The senior became the 42nd player in school history to reach the 1,000-point mark. He is the team's third-leading scorer this season at 12.1 ppg.
GAME TO WATCH
Louisiana at Western Kentucky (Thursday, 7 p.m. central)
This game has major implications for seeding in the SBC tournament. Second-place Western Kentucky, which has won nine of its last 12 games, has a one-game lead on the Cajuns in the league standings and won in the previous meeting between the teams 79-70 on Jan. 25 in Lafayette. WKU would clinch the second seed in the SBC tournament and a double-bye to the tournament semifinals by winning this game. The Cajuns must win their final two games to finish second. WKU is led by guard T.J. Price (15.5 ppg) and forward George Fant (13 ppg, 6.8 rpg), while the Cajuns are paced by guard Elfrid Payton (19 ppg, 6 apg) and forward Shawn Long (19.5 ppg-10.4 rpg).
BY THE NUMBERS
23: Victories this season for Georgia State – the second-most in school history. The Panthers finished a program-best 29-5 in 2001.
185: Career steals for Louisiana guard Elfrid Payton. The junior had two steals in last week's win over South Alabama to break the school's steals record of 184 previously set by Chris Manuel in 1998.
16-4: Record for Western Kentucky under coach Ray Harper in games played on or after Feb. 21. The Hilltoppers need one victory this week to secure the 42nd 20-win season in program history.
1,885: Career points for South Alabama forward Augustine Rubit. The senior is second at USA and ninth in the SBC in career scoring. He has the most rebounds (1,158) in the history of the Jaguars and the SBC.
13-2: Home record this season for the Ragin' Cajuns. It was the best home mark for the Cajuns since going 13-4 in 1991.
PARROTT'S SBC POWER RANKINGS
1. Georgia State (23-7, 16-1 SBC)/Previous ranking: 1
Last week: Beat UT Arlington 77-49; Beat Texas State 66-55.
This week: Beat Arkansas State 79-76 in OT; Saturday vs. Western Kentucky.
Skinny: The Panthers can break their single-season conference victories record set in 2001 by beating Western Kentucky. They beat Arkansas State despite spending nearly 20 hours on a bus over three days while traveling from Texas to Arkansas.
2. Western Kentucky (19-10, 11-5 SBC)/Previous ranking: 2
Last week: Beat Texas State 51-50; Lost to UT Arlington 80-73.
This week: Thursday vs. Louisiana; Saturday at Georgia State.
Skinny: WKU beat Texas State last week after trailing by 12 points then lost to UTA despite leading by 11 with 10 minutes to go. T.J. Price had 17 points against UTA to lead five double-digit scorers for WKU.
3. Louisiana (19-10, 10-6 SBC)/Previous ranking: 3
Last week: Beat South Alabama 102-74.
This week: Thursday at Western Kentucky; Saturday at Arkansas State.
Skinny: The Cajuns have won seven of their last eight but play their final two regular season games on the road, where they are 3-4 in the SBC this season. Shawn Long had his 33rd double-double in 61 collegiate games against USA (20 pts-10 rbs).
4. Arkansas State (17-11, 9-7 SBC)/Previous ranking: 4
Last week: Beat Lyon College 65-39; Lost to UALR 74-67.
This week: Lost to Georgia State 79-76 in OT; Thursday vs. ULM; Saturday vs. Louisiana.
Skinny: The Red Wolves play three games at home in the final week of the regular season. They had four turnovers and allowed only 15 second-half points in last week's win over Lyon College. Melvin Johnson III had 19 points vs. Georgia State.
5. UALR (14-15, 9-8 SBC)/Previous ranking: 6
Last week: Beat Troy 62-55; Beat Arkansas State 74-67.
This week: Saturday vs. ULM.
Skinny: UALR ended a five-game slide with two wins last week despite playing without injured forward Will Neighbour (16.3 ppg). The Trojans held Troy and Arkansas State to 39.8% shooting while assisting on 73.9% of their baskets.
6. UT Arlington (13-15, 8-8 SBC)/Previous ranking: 5
Last week: Lost to Georgia State 77-49; Beat Western Kentucky 80-73.
This week: Thursday at Troy; Saturday at South Alabama.
Skinny: Last week UTA split two games but has won four of its last six games. The Mavericks rebounded from the Georgia State loss to beat Western Kentucky as guard Reger Dowell had a career-high 37 points.
7. ULM (9-15, 6-10 SBC)/Previous ranking: 7
Last week: Beat South Alabama 71-54; Lost to Troy 61-46.
This week: Thursday at Arkansas State; Saturday at UALR.
Skinny: The Warhawks close out the regular season with road games at Arkansas State and UALR. Their five seniors are on pace to graduate with degrees in May. Forward Tylor Ongwae is averaging 18.1 ppg in SBC play.
8. Troy (10-18, 5-11 SBC)/Previous ranking: 9
Last week: Lost to UALR 62-55; Beat ULM 61-46.
This week: Thursday vs. UT Arlington; Saturday vs. Texas State.
Skinny: The Trojans have a one-game lead on Texas State for the eighth and final seed in the SBC tournament. Hunter Williams had 24 points and six 3s against ULM to help Troy win despite shooting only 38.9 percent from the floor.
9. Texas State (8-21, 4-12 SBC)/Previous ranking: 8
Last week: Lost to Western Kentucky 51-50; Lost to Georgia State 66-55.
This week: Thursday at South Alabama; Saturday at Troy.
Skinny: Texas State controls its own destiny with two games left in the regular season. The Bobcats will make the SBC tournament if they beat South Alabama and Troy for the second time this season, but they've lost three in a row and six of seven.
10. South Alabama (9-20, 3-13 SBC)/Previous ranking: 10
Last week: Lost to ULM 71-54; Lost to Louisiana 102-74.
This week: Thursday vs. Texas State; Saturday vs. UT Arlington.
Skinny: The Jaguars are the only team in the conference that has been eliminated from consideration for the SBC tournament. Guard Ken Williams had a career-high 22 points and five 3s against Louisiana.
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