PINEVILLE, La. – For the first time since making a run to the Championship Game in 2016, the Louisiana College men’s basketball team earned a victory in the American Southwest Conference Tournament by using an 11-0 second half run to bust open the game against Texas-Dallas for a 79-72 win over the Comets Wednesday night in the quarterfinals of the 2021 ASC Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament at H.O. West Fieldhouse.
In a battle between the two and three seeds from the ASC’s Eastern Division, the opening minutes of the Wildcats’ first ever ASC Tournament home game was back and forth with the two teams swapping the lead four times with five ties over the first ten-plus minutes. However, a Ferontay Banks three broke a 14-14 deadlock which started a 10-0 Wildcats run that gave LC the lead for the remainder of the contest. The run of ten straight points ended with Bailey Hardy leaving the ball off for Galen Smith, Jr. who sank a mid-range jumper to give LC a 24-14 lead with less than five minutes left before halftime.
A UTD jumper ended that run, but a Kae’ron Baker three-pointer pushed LC to its largest lead of the first half at 11 points, 27-16. The Wildcats matched that lead three more times before halftime, the last coming after a steal by Malik Cooper turned into a fast break lay-up by Bailey Hardy with just seconds before the buzzer for a 40-29 lead. The Comets got a couple free throws to close out the scoring in the first period and LC took a 40-31 lead into the locker room.
Following a few minutes of trading buckets to open the second half, the run that gave LC the breathing room needed to close things out began as Kae’ron Baker hit a pair of free throws to make the score 44-35. The run ended with less than 14 minutes left in the game with KJ Bilbo draining a three to give LC a 53-35 lead. UTD cut it down to 14 before a 10-2 LC push gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the game after Kae’ron Baker sank a free throw following a technical foul to make the score 69-47 with 5:37 left in the game and LC cruised to the victory from there.
KJ Bilbo led the Wildcats with 20 points as he made seven of his 14 shots, including four of nine from three. He also grabbed seven rebounds, dished out three assists and blocked a shot. Kae’ron Baker finished the night with 18 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Galen Smith, Jr. collected his fourth straight double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds to go with four assists and two blocks. Ferontay Banks rounded out the leading scorers with 14 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Bailey Hardy neared his own double-double with eight points and nine rebounds. Louisiana College shot 44.9% in the contest and made 31 shots as a team compared to just 25 by UTD.
The Wildcats (10-4) now advance to the semifinal where they’ll take on #10 Mary Hardin-Baylor, who got a free pass to the round of four after their game against Concordia was canceled, with the right to play for a conference title on the line. With the rest of the tournament now shifting to the University of the Ozarks, tip-off for the semifinal game against the #10 Crusaders (16-3) is set for 3:00 P.M. on Sunday at Mabee Gymnasium.