Richard wins 300th game, Warhawks cruise past Georgia Southern, 72-59

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STATESBORO, Ga. – The ULM men’s basketball team built as much as a 20-point second half lead and rolled to a 72-59 win against Georgia Southern on Thursday night in Hanner Fieldhouse, as the Warhawks maintained a tie for first place in the Sun Belt Conference and picked up head coach Keith Richard’s 300th career victory.

ULM (9-11 overall, 5-2 Sun Belt Conference) is now part of a four-way tie for first place in the SBC with Marshall, the Ragin’ Cajuns and Southern Miss.

“This was a great road win,” Richard said. “I told them before the game that if they could win here, it would be great. I’ve got a lot of respect for (Georgia Southern) coach (Brian) Burg. I think he does a great job. It was tough for both teams out there offensively, because there was some good defense being played on both ends.”

Tyreke Locure led ULM with 19 points (5-of-10 3-point field-goal attempts), six rebounds and six assists. Jamari Blackmon followed with 15 points (3-of-4 3-point field-goal attempts), six rebounds and five assists. Thomas Howell added 13 points (6-of-7 field-goal attempts) and Langston Powell had 10 points (4-of-5 field-goal attempts and 2-of-3 3-point field-goal attempts). Victor Bafutto chipped in nine points with a career-high 15 rebounds, including a school-record 10 offensive rebounds, and two blocks.

“Victor was dead tired at the end of the first half,” Richard said. “We threw him the ball a couple times inside and he was so tired, he couldn’t even get the shot up. So at halftime, I told the team I don’t want to hear anybody getting on Victor about points around the paint when we throw it to him. He had 11 rebounds at the half. He was a big part of the rebounding effort and really, the whole effort in general.”

Kaden Archie led Georgia Southern (11-9, 4-3) with 15 points (6-of-9 field-goal attempts, 3-of-5 3-point field-goal attempts).

The Warhawks were strong defensively all night, limiting the Eagles to 38% (23-of-61) shooting from the field and 33% (8-of-24) shooting from the 3-point line. ULM held Georgia Southern to 24 points in the paint, tied for the second-fewest points in the paint scored by the Eagles this season. Georgia Southern entered the game averaging 35.3 points in the paint per game, and 38.3 points in the paint per game in SBC action.

“I’m really proud of our effort on the defensive end,” Richard said. “They had 24 points in the paint, which is below their average. We did a great job in that respect. That was part of our emphasis and game plan. They had 50 in a game not too long ago.”

ULM was hot on the offensive end as well, hitting 48% (30-of-62) from the floor and 55% (11-of-20) from 3-point range. Free throws were not a factor in the outcome, with the Eagles shooting 5-of-8 and ULM shooting 1-of-4. The Warhawks outrebounded Georgia Southern, 40-34, and turned the ball over just eight times.

“If you make 3-point shots, it sure makes the offense look good at times,” Richard said. “We hit some, and some tough ones at times, too, between Jamari and Tyreke. The defensive effort was tremendous. We mustered up enough offense to keep it out there for us. They cut it down to 14 or 15 and we made a big shot. That kind of thing happened a lot during the game, just when they were about to get on a run. It seems like we made a big shot, or a layup, which kept us up pretty much for the whole game.”

ULM built an 11-point lead on back-to-back layups by Locure and Savion Gallion at the 7:32 mark of the first half. The Eagles cut the lead back to four at 25-21 at the 5:53 mark on consecutive baskets by Andrei Savrasov. It was the only four points of the night for Georgia Southern’s leading scorer, who was limited to a season-low four points on 2-of-7 shooting. He entered the game averaging 13.5 points per game, which ranked 12th in the SBC.

The Warhawks answered with back-to-back 3-pointers, one by Powell and the other by Blackmon, to extend the lead back to 10, 31-21, with 2:28 remaining. A 3-pointer with 38 seconds to go before the break by Locure kept the lead at 10 at halftime, 35-25.

ULM extended the lead to 15 early in the second half as Bafutto and Blackmon scored four points each in the first four minutes of the half. A 3-pointer by Powell took the lead to 18, 46-28, with 15:42 left. The lead hit 20 on a steal and dunk for Powell with 5:10 left, as ULM led, 69-49. Georgia Southern was never closer than the final margin of 13, which came on a 3-pointer by Nate Brafford with seven seconds remaining.

“It’s a great road win for us,” Richard said. “It’s hard to win here. There will be a lot of teams that struggle to beat them here. I’m glad we did.”

Richard shrugged off meeting the milestone of his 300th career win, which is a combined 150 wins at both ULM and Louisiana Tech.

“It doesn’t mean anything right now,” Richard said. “Maybe after the season it will mean something. I’m proud of these players and how they played tonight.”

ULM wraps up the first leg of the four-game road swing at 4 p.m. Saturday at Troy.

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