The magical runs of New Orleans and McNeese State continued as, for the second straight day, the Privateers and Cowboys upset higher seeds to advance to the semifinals of the 2023 Southland Conference men's basketball tournament.
In the semifinals, the Privateers will take on second-seed Northwestern State while the Cowboys face top-seed and defending champions Texas A&M-Corpus Christi with a win by each setting up one of the unlikeliest conference championship games ever.
New Orleans 82, Southeastern Louisiana 78
Jordan Johnson scored 32 points, his second game topping 30 or more this year and Jamond Vincent added a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds for New Orleans (12-19).
In a first half that saw both teams have long scoring runs that ended 35-35, Johnson buried a three-pointer a little more than six minutes into the second half to give the Privateers a 64-52 lead.
Roger McFarlane scored seven straight points to pull Southeastern Louisiana (18-14) within striking distance. Boogie Anderson, who led the Lions with 18, cut it to a two-point game following a miss from McFarlane.
Marquez Cooper made two late free throws to ensure New Orleans' progression to the semifinals.
McNeese State 77, Nicholls 71
Christian Shumate recorded his fifth straight double-double and 15th of the season as the sophomore guard scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead McNeese State (11-22).
Zach Scott led three other Cowboys players in double figures with 22 while Donovan Oday scored 12 with four assists and Hardin Francois added 11 points.
Latrell Jones led Nicholls (16-15) with 25 points while Caleb Huffman added 22 as they were the only two players in double figures for the Colonels.
Trailing 70-69 with 1:32 to play, a Francois layup plus a free throw 22 seconds later put the Cowboys on top for good. Scott buried two free throws with 16 seconds remaining to seal the win.
McNeese State, hosting the tournament, is the first eighth seed to ever reach the semifinals and they haven't been this far in the Southland tournament since 2012.