Locure pours in 25 as Warhawks hold off Georgia State, 66-58

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MONROE, La. – Tyreke Locure scored a career-high 25 points as ULM held off a furious Georgia State rally in the final eight minutes for a 66-58 win Thursday night at Fant-Ewing Coliseum.

The Warhawks moved to 3-0 in the Sun Belt Conference with the victory, marking the first time ULM has started 3-0 in SBC play since its first year in the conference in 2006-07.

ULM led by as much as 19, at 53-34 and again at 55-36 on a layup by Langston Powell following a steal by Thomas Howell with 8:59 remaining. The Warhawks scored just three points over the next 7:10, allowing GSU to go on a 19-3 run to close within three at 58-55 on a steal and layup by Brenden Tucker with 2:37 left.

“We told our players this is not the first time Georgia State has done this,” ULM head coach Keith Richard said. “They’ve been down double figures multiple times and came back and won. Sure enough, they made a big run. We struggled to score in that stretch. We needed to just keep scoring. We were a little bit fatigued out there. I saw it, but it was too late to take them out. We just had to kind of get through it and hold on, maybe get a stop or two and make a big bucket.”

The Warhawks finally answered as Victor Bafutto connected on a layup off a feed from Locure with 1:50 remaining for the 60-55 lead. After a defensive stop, Jamari Blackmon drove from the left wing and finished a reverse layup in traffic to stretch the lead back to seven, 62-55, with 1:14 to go.

“Victor making that bucket was big,” Richard said. “And Jamari hit a big layup. Tyreke, offensively, played well all around.”

A 3-pointer by GSU’s Jamaine Mann brought the Panthers within four again, 62-58, with 19 seconds left, but Locure hit both ends of a pair of one-and-one free throws in the final 19 seconds to help the Warhawks seal the 66-58 win.

“I’ve really tried to keep the ball in Jamari and Tyreke’s hands as much as possible in these three games,” Richard said. “Jamari doesn’t turn it over. Tyreke’s a better passer out of ball screens. It’s working a little bit. I think the kids got some confidence about how we’re playing.”

ULM had a fast start while GSU was icy from the field until the final eight minutes of the game. The Warhawks took a 12-3 lead on a layup by Howell followed by a jumper by Locure with 15:42 to go in the first half, prompting a GSU timeout.

The Panthers pulled within four, 12-8, with 13:19 remaining in the half before ULM pulled back away. The Warhawks built as much as an 11-point lead at 36-25 on Locure’s 3-pointer with 45 seconds left in the half. Tucker hit back-to-back free throws to end the half for GSU as ULM led 36-27 at the break.

The lead went back over double digits in the second half when Howell buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key for the 43-31 lead with 17:39 remaining. A jumper by Locure and a trey from Blackmon pushed the lead to 17, 50-33. A traditional three-point play by Bafutto, his first points of the game, stretched the lead to 19 for the first time, 53-34, with 11:52 left.

In addition to Locure’s 25 points, Blackmon added 14 points and Howell had 13 for ULM to go with eight rebounds. Tucker was the only double-figure scorer for GSU with a season-high 25 points, going 10-of-13 from the free-throw line. The Warhawks held GSU’s leading scorer, Dwon Odom, to six points and 2-of-8 shooting. Odom entered the game averaging 15.8 points per game, good for eighth in the SBC. The Panthers’ top post player, Ja’Heim Hudson, scored two points and had four rebounds after entering the game averaging 10.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

ULM shot 41% (21-of-63) from the field and 32% (7-of-22) from 3-point range while hitting 7-of-11 (64%) free throws. Georgia State was cold from the field for most of the game, warming to 33% (16-of-48) from the field and 30% (6-of-20) from 3-point range in the late run. Free-throw shooting kept the Panthers in the game, hitting 20-of-23 (87%) from the charity stripe.

“They’ve been scrappy,” Richard said of his team on the defensive end. “The last three games, we have been a really scrappy team and following the scout. We’ve been on them since Christmas break to follow the defensive scout. These coaches and myself, we watch a lot of film. We don’t do it for our health. They tasted a little success with some things we did in the scout, in particular defensively, that’s carried us here in these three games.”

ULM had just five turnovers on the night while forcing 15 GSU turnovers.

The Warhawks entertain Southern Miss at 2 p.m. Saturday at Fant-Ewing Coliseum.

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