The Ragin’ Cajuns are moving on to the next round.
The University of Louisiana men’s basketball team defeated Arkansas State, 73-66, in the opening round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. With the win, UL is now 14-18 overall on the season and advances to the second round.
How It Happened:
UL’s Dou Gueye drained a three-pointer to start off things but Arkansas State answered with a three-pointer by Canberra Kus which ignited a 10-0 run for the visiting Red Wolves. The Cajuns responded and tied the game at 12-12 with a Trajan Wesley layup with 12:13 left in the opening half.
The two teams continued to go back-and-forth in the first half with neither team leading by more than three points. That was until Arkansas State’s J.J. Matthews hit a jumper to give the Red Wolves a 35-31 with 3:12 left to play.
The Cajuns answered as P.J. Hardy was fouled on a corner three-point attempt and drained all three free throws. Mylik Wilson hit a three-pointer to give the Ragin’ Cajuns a 37-35 lead.
Wilson would make 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in the first half and the Cajuns entered the break with a 40-37 lead.
Just as he did in the first half, Gueye scored the first points with a short jumper which sparked a 6-0 run for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
The Red Wolves stormed back with a 12-2 run, with six points courtesy of Matthews, and reclaimed the lead. The Cajuns though responded with a 10-0 run and held a 60-52 lead with 6:50 left to play in the game.
The Cajuns kept the lead around double digits for the next three minutes until the Red Wolves’ Jerry Johnson competed the rare four-point play. With 2:08 eft, Johnson pulled up and made a three-pointer and was hit after release by Trajan Wesley. Johnson made the ensuing free throw and made it a 65-61 game. A few moments later, after another trip down the court without points by the Cajuns, Cus drained a three-pointer that made it a one-point game.
UL answered as Wilson drained a pair of free throws to make 67-64 with 1:12 left on the clock.
Arkansas State got a floater in the lane from Marquis Eaton and once again made it a one-point game. With 53.7 seconds left, the Red Wolves trailed 67-66 and took a time out.
UL’s Cedric Russell made a jumper with 28 seconds left to extend the Cajuns’ lead to 69-66. Arkansas State missed an ensuing three-point shot and Russell grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Russell then went to the line and made his free throw but in between his shots Arkansas State’s bench was called for a technical foul. Russell would drain all four of free throws attempts to give UL a 73-66 lead and seal the win.
Big Number: 22
The Ragin’ Cajuns made 22-of-27 free throws (81.5 percent) in Saturday’s game against the Red Wolves, including going 6-of-6 in the final 1:20 of the contest.
Players of the Game: Mylik Wilson & Cedric Russell
The Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year posted a double-double for the Ragin’ Cajuns in Saturday’s win. Wilson scored 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three-point range, while also pulling down 12 rebounds. Russell meanwhile scored six points, including going 4-of-4 at the free throw line, in the final 28 seconds. Russell finished with 12 points.
Next Up: UL will play at Georgia Southern on Monday in the second round of the SBC Tournament. Tip is scheduled for 6 p.m.