NEW ORLEANS — Elfrid Payton scored 23 points, including the go-ahead layup with 1:16 left, as third-seeded Louisiana-Lafayette beat No. 2 seed Western Kentucky 73-72 Saturday in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
Payton had a chance to put Louisiana up by three with 11 seconds left, but his runner was short. Western Kentucky's T.J. Price grabbed the rebound and went coast-to-coast but missed the game-winning layup at the buzzer.
WKU Coach Ray Harper had a timeout left but chose not to use it as Price raced down the court in the final seconds.
"I don't know what you would have wanted me to call out of a timeout," Harper told the Bowling Green Daily News.
Payton was 11-for-15 from the field with seven rebounds, nine assists and four steals for Louisiana (22-11). Bryant Mbamalu also had 23 points.
George Fant and Price had 16 apiece for Western Kentucky (20-12).
"We have to remember this feeling," Fant, a junior forward, told the Daily News.
WKU's press defense forced a turnover leading to Chris Harrison-Docks' third consecutive three-pointer to give the Hilltoppers a 70-69 lead with 2:48 left. But WKU made just 2 of 6 free throws down the stretch.
Louisiana will play top-seeded Georgia State on Sunday in the championship.