Louisiana Basketball Drops Season Finale At Georgia State 65-58
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns men's basketball team saw a double-digit second-half lead diminish as they lost their regular season finale on the road to the Georgia State Panthers 65-58.
With the loss, Louisiana's three game winning streak came to an end. They finished the regular season 13-14 overall and were eighth place in the Sun Belt with a 8-9 conference record. Georgia State completed the regular season sweep of the Cajuns. Head coach Bob Marlin talked about his team's second half performance.
"They outplayed us in the second half," Marlin said. "We were locked in at halftime and felt like we were ready to come out. We knew they were going to make a charge, but we made poor decisions with the ball. We dug ourselves in a hole and let them back into the game."
Louisiana played excellent defense early on, forcing three Georgia State turnovers and holding them without a point for the first three minutes. The Panthers took control with good rebounding. Their first six points came off of offensive rebounds. However, the Cajuns held a 7-6 lead behind five quick points from forward Kobe Julien. Julien left the game in the first half. He returned at the start of the second half but only recorded six minutes of playing time.
After Georgia State took the lead, Louisiana went on a 10-0 run with two baskets by forward Jordan Brown and two threes by guards Jalen Dalcourt and Kentrell Garnett. The Panthers broke that streak with a pair of jumpers, but guard Michael Thomas and forward Theo Akwuba each responded with jumpers of their own. Louisiana's lead was 21-12 midway through the first half.
The Panthers hit a three to cut the lead to six, but they went on a scoring drought that lasted nearly five minutes. However, during that time, the Cajuns only scored two points and went on their own two-minute scoreless streak. Most of that was due to the fact that they had four turnovers in that stretch. Cajuns guard Greg Williams Jr. broke their streak with two straight three-pointers to expand the lead to 29-15.
Williams had an excellent first half. Following two free throws, he came away with a steal and a fast break layup.
The Cajuns got another defensive stop at the end of the first half and entered halftime with a 35-24 lead. Louisiana played well on both sides of the ball, holding Georgia State to 30% shooting in the first half while they were 57% from the field. However, the Panthers had 10 more shot attempts than the Cajuns. Even though Louisiana out-rebounded Georgia State, the Panthers had nine offensive boards in the first half.
Neither team took care of the ball in the first half. Georgia State had eight turnovers and Louisiana had nine, and the Cajuns got off to a poor start after the break. Guard Brayan Au had the team's 10th turnover, and the Panthers got a layup on the other end. Louisiana was called for a shot-clock violation for another turnover on the very next possession, and Georgia State got a dunk to cut the lead to seven points. Marlin called a timeout, and the Cajuns quickly stretched the lead back out to 11.
The two teams traded baskets for five minutes of game time, but Louisiana maintained a 10-point lead. However, the Cajuns turnover problem came back. In a sloppy four-minute scoreless period, Louisiana had five turnovers, and the Panthers used a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 47-46. This was the turning point in the game. The Cajuns were comfortably in front for most of the second half, but turnovers opened the door for the Panthers. Brown split a pair of free throws, and Georgia State took the lead on a three. Williams hit a floater in response for Louisiana.
The Cajuns missed two big free throws, and Georgia State took a 53-52 lead. Williams got a steal and layup to tie his season-high in points at 18. The Panthers hit a jumper to regain the lead. Brown missed a jumper, and the Cajuns needed a stop with a minute remaining in the game. Instead, Akwuba was called for a foul, and Georgia State hit both free throws to give them their largest lead of the night at five points.
Dalcourt cut the lead to three with two big free throws, but the Panthers hit two more at the stripe with less than 30 seconds remaining. Louisiana missed a free throw, turned it over again, and allowed Georgia State to complete their second half comeback with a 65-58 win.
Williams was one of the lone bright spots for Louisiana. He finished with 18 points to lead the team. Dalcourt added 10 for the Cajuns.
Louisiana struggled on offense in the second half. They were 9-29 from the field and 0-9 from the behind three-point line. They also turned the ball over eight more times after the break and only hit five of their nine free throw attempts. The Cajuns were out-scored as a team 41-23 in the second half. Their winning streak came to an end.
Up next, Louisiana travels to Pensacola, Florida to participate in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. They finished with the eighth seed in the conference and start tournament play with a first-round game against the ninth seeded UT-Arlington Mavericks on Thursday, March 3 at 11:30 a.m. The Cajuns lost both regular season meetings against the Mavericks.