New Orleans, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - Xavian Rimmer netted a pair from the line with 30 seconds left in overtime to help Louisiana knock off Georgia State 82-81 in the Sun Belt Conference Championship.
Rimmer finished with 27 points and Elfrid Payton added 19 points and six assists to guide the Ragin' Cajuns (23-11) to their first conference title since 2005 and 10th trip to the NCAA Tournament in school history.
Louisiana earned the 14th seed in the West Region and will face third-seeded Creighton on Friday.
Bryant Mbamalu contributed 13 points and seven rebounds and Shawn Long had 11 points and 14 rebounds in the win.
Ryan Harrow scored a career-high 37 points and brought down seven rebounds for the Panthers (25-8), who had won eight straight coming in. R.J. Hunter and Manny Atkins added 17 and 12 points, respectively, in defeat.
Louisiana trailed 72-70 with under 20 seconds left in regulation when Payton drove hard to the rim for a lefty layup but his momentum was too much. Long grabbed the rebound, though, and dished to Mbamalu, who made his layup with 1.4 seconds on the clock to tie the game.
"Well, I mean Shawn's a pretty good passer, they all converged on him. First of all it was a great offensive rebound by him. That was a big time rebound and three people ran to him so I was just wide open," said Mbamalu. "Shawn found me and I was able to put it in. I was kind of nervous when I caught it, thank god I put it in."
The Panthers didn't get a shot off before time expired in regulation despite getting the ball across midcourt on their inbound pass.
Long scored the first two of overtime, but Atkins and Hunter answered with a layup and then a 3-pointer with three minutes left. Louisiana trailed 77-74 at that point before Payton scored the next six for the Ragin' Cajuns to put them ahead by three with under a minute left.
Harrow followed the burst by Payton with a pair from the line before Rimmer converted his decisive free throws. Harrow's layup counted for the Panthers' final points.
Rimmer missed the first of a 1-and-1 with 20 seconds left in overtime and left the door open for the Panthers after they came down with the rebound. Georgia State drove downcourt for the last shot but Harrow came up empty on his jumper with five seconds left.
"We made enough plays to win the game and felt like the second half we went to a zone defense. It was kind of gutsy call we're down 10 and I wanted to do it earlier, I didn't, it's kind of hard to do it late, we did it, we got a turnover and made a couple plays, it changed the pace of the game for just a second and it let us catch back up," said Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin.
Louisiana led 35-34 at halftime but Georgia State took the lead back a minute into the second half. The Ragin' Cajuns remained within at least six points until Harrow scored 10 straight for the Panthers, who managed just three points during the spurt.
Georgia State led by 10 with 4:39 left in regulation but Louisiana closed out the half with a 14-4 surge.
Earlier, Louisiana used an 11-3 run to take an 8-point lead, the largest of the first half for either team, with 7:26 left before the break.
Louisiana out-rebounded the Panthers 46-30 ... The Ragin' Cajuns won their sixth SBC title in eight appearances since 1992 ... Georgia State swept the regular season series with a 77-70 win on Jan. 23 and an 80-77 victory Feb. 22 ... The Ragin' Cajuns' last win in the NCAA Tournament came in 1992, an 87-83 victory over Oklahoma.