Louisiana Basketball Loses 80-77 OT Heartbreaker to UT-Arlington
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns men's basketball team lost to UT-Arlington 80-77 in overtime at the Cajundome to continue their downward spiral.
With the loss, the Cajuns are now 10-13 overall and 5-8 in Sun Belt Conference play. They have lost eight of their last 10 and continue to tumble down the conference standings. Louisiana is now 1-5 in their last six Sun Belt games at home in the Cajundome. Head coach Bob Marlin talked about the tough loss.
"The guys tried really hard tonight, but we couldn't hang onto the ball," Marlin said. "Offensively, we struggled at times. The way to block out defensively has been an issue all year, and taking care of the ball has been an issue. They've got a good team and they made big plays. Their guys step up against us."
Forward Jordan Brown was aggressive to open the game, scoring a quick four points and guard Kentrell Garnett hit a three. The Cajuns held a 7-4 lead at the first official's timeout.
Louisiana's forwards continued their strong play early on. Theo Akwuba and Brown combined for 10 points and 11 rebounds in the first 10 minutes of the game. Guard Jalen Dalcourt hit his second three, and Brown made two more baskets. Louisiana's lead stretched out to 25-18 with less than six minutes remaining before halftime.
The Mavericks cut a seven-point Cajuns lead to one in about 10 seconds thanks to two made threes. The second one came off of Louisiana's eighth turnover of the game. The Cajuns survived a drought without a field goal, and, after leading for most of the first half, they entered halftime with a 33-29 lead. Forward Kobe Julien came up with a big block for Louisiana at the buzzer.
Brown nearly had a first half double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds. Neither team shot well from three-point range, as both teams were 3-12 in the first half. The Mavericks took advantage of 11 turnovers by Louisiana, and 15 of their 29 points were off of turnovers by the Cajuns.
UT-Arlington made three straight shots and went on an 8-0 run to take their first lead of the entire game at 40-37. Julien responded with a layup plus a foul. After he missed the free throw, Brown recorded his 10th rebound to give the team another possession, and Julien once again attacked the rim and was fouled on a made layup. This time he made the free throw, and it turned into a five-point trip for the Cajuns.
The Mavericks continued their efficient offensive in the second half, but Dalcourt's third triple put the Cajuns in front 45-44. The two teams continued to go back-and-forth. Greg Williams Jr. hit a three and then assisted on a dunk by Brown. Louisiana's lead was 56-54 after they had made four straight shots.
A pair of free throws by UT-Arlington tied the game, and, after the Cajuns turned it over, the Mavericks hit a three. However, Brown's three took advantage of a turnover. Each team was shooting nearly 60% from the field through 13 minutes of the second half, and the two teams were tied at 61.
Akwuba's two free throws broke a three-minute scoring drought during a crucial stretch for Louisiana. The game stayed tied at 63, but the Cajuns fouled a Mavericks shooter on a three-point shot. He hit all three free throws, and Louisiana turned the ball over again. However, UT-Arlington missed a layup and they were called for a goaltending on a Julien layup. Julien's first three of the game tied it up at 68.
A tough jumper by Julien gave the team a two-point lead with 45 seconds left. Coach Marlin called a timeout to set his defense. The Mavericks missed a layup, but their eighth offensive rebound in the second half was followed by the game-tying tip in. Louisiana was set to have the final possession of regulation, but they did the one thing they couldn't do. They turned the ball over for the 19th time. However, the Mavericks missed a jumper. The Cajuns tried a layup right before regulation expired, but it was blocked. The two teams went to overtime.
Julien split a pair of free throws to score the first point of the extra period, and his jumper made it 73-70. All 19 of his points came in the second half and overtime.
The Mavericks answered with four straight points, but Akwuba hit two clutch free throws for the Cajuns. Another tip in off of a missed layup by UT-Arlington gave them the 76-75 lead, but two more clutch free throws by Julien with 43 seconds left had Louisiana back in front. A layup by UT-Arlington on the next possession gave the Mavericks the lead back, and the Cajuns were down by one with 20 seconds remaining. Marlin called a timeout.
Just like in regulation, Louisiana turned the ball over on a late possession with a chance to win. UT-Arlington's lead was 80-77 with six seconds left after they hit a pair of free throws. On the last possession, the Cajuns didn't get off a good shot, and an air ball secured another loss. Marlin talked about the final possession in the postgame.
"We wanted to get it to Kentrell (Garnett) at the end," Marlin said. "I thought they were going to foul us to keep us from getting a shot off, but they didn't."
Free throws weren't an issue for Louisiana this time. The Cajuns were 18-21 at the line in the game. A recurring issue of ball security was a big difference once again. Louisiana had 21 turnovers, and the Mavericks were +13 with 24 points off of turnovers. They had 13 more shot attempts in the game than the Cajuns. Louisiana didn't have a made field goal in the final 2:58 of overtime.
Up next, Louisiana travels to face the UL-Monroe Warhawks on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. The Warhawks are 10-10 overall and 2-6 in Sun Belt play.