Louisiana Moves to 3-0 in SBC with 83-77 OT Win Over Arkansas St.
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns men's basketball team overcame a game-tying three-pointer at the end of regulation to dominate overtime and take down the Arkansas State Red Wolves 83-77 in the Cajundome.
With the win, Louisiana improved to 8-5 this season and 3-0 in the Sun Belt Conference. The Cajuns and the UT-Arlington Mavericks are the only teams still undefeated in conference play.
Head coach Bob Marlin said his team's goal entering the game was to keep Arkansas State under 40% shooting from the field, and the Red Wolves made only 25 of their 71 shot attempts for 35%.
"The defense won this game, there's no doubt about it," Marlin said. "We held them to under 40% and the guys defended well in overtime. We did a good job when we had to."
Louisiana was missing their leading scorer Jordan Brown in this game, but they used a team effort to take down the Red Wolves. Five players scored over 10 points for the Cajuns, and Marlin praised his team's effort in a competitive victory.
"It was a good effort by our guys ," Marlin said. "I'm really proud of how they fought through adversity tonight."
Senior forward Dou Gueye scored Louisiana's first five points, but Arkansas State had an early 8-5 lead thanks to four quick turnovers by the Cajuns offense.
Freshman forward Kobe Julien scored eight straight for Louisiana, including two three pointers to give the Cajuns a 13-11 lead.
Forward Theo Akwuba finished through contact to stretch that lead to 17-13 with just over eight minutes remaining in the first half. It was a physical game early on, and that may have played into Louisiana's plan because they were excellent in the first half defensively.
Julien scored his 10th point, but he picked up his second foul with six minutes left and went to the bench. Junior guard Greg Williams Jr. gave the Cajuns a nice spurt of momentum with a steal and slam dunk on the other end.
Louisiana forced another turnover and Akwuba gave the Cajuns their second straight dunk. An offensive foul by the Red Wolves, and a layup by guard Jalen Dalcourt created a 6-0 run. Two free throws expanded the lead to 10 points at 27-17.
Arkansas State went on a 6-0 run to cut the Louisiana lead to 31-27 late in the first half before coach Marlin called a timeout. Akwuba and Gueye each hit shots to stretch the lead back out to eight points, but a three pointer by the Red Wolves had the Cajuns lead at 35-30 at halftime.
Akwuba started the second half with two quick buckets, but Arkansas State answered with four points. Julien was called for his third foul on a block, and the Red Wolves continued their perfect free throw shooting, hitting their 10th straight from the line.
Arkansas State kept pace with Louisiana early on in the second half, answering each basket with points either on field goals or free throws. The Red Wolves out-scored Louisiana 13-12 in the first four minutes of the second half.
Following a turnover, Arkansas State cut the lead to 47-45. They went on a run of four straight made field goals.
A big three by freshman guard Kentrell Garnett pushed Louisiana's lead back out to seven points at 54-47 before Marlin called another timeout.
Arkansas State went on a 6-0 run to get within one point, but back-to-back threes by Julien and Williams made it 60-53. A put-back by Akwuba ballooned the Cajuns run to 8-0.
Julien picked up his fourth foul and exited the game with less than seven minutes remaining. The Cajuns held a slight 64-61 lead after Arkansas State hit their 18th free throw of the night. Both teams went on a field goal drought, and it turned into a free throw contest late in the second half. Louisiana went two straight possessions where they missed free throws, leaving points off the board.
A desperation buzzer-beating three pointer by the Red Wolves tied the game at 66 with three minutes left. Julien split a pair of free throws to put the Cajuns back in front, but a dunk gave Arkansas State their first lead in the second half. A jumper by junior guard Trajan Wesley broke a six-minute streak without a field goal and Louisiana regained the lead. On the next possession, Wesley hit a layup and drew a foul for an and-one. He hit the free throw to put Louisiana up 72-68.
After Arkansas State missed a three, the Cajuns were called for offensive goal-tending on their next possession, giving the Red Wolves the ball back with 30 seconds left. A tough jumper brought Arkansas State within two points, and Wesley split a pair of free throws to keep it at a one-possession 73-70 lead with 13 seconds remaining. A clutch three by the Red Wolves with less than one second on the clock tied the game, and the two teams went into overtime.
Marlin talked about the shot and what he told his team as the Cajuns prepared for the five-minute overtime period.
"We didn't drop our heads," Marlin said. "We told the guys if we are a championship team, we are going to have more energy."
The Cajuns answered coach Marlin's call and played with more energy in overtime. Akwuba started the extra period with two layups and a block. A jumper by Williams answered Arkansas State's first points of overtime.
Two free throws brought the Red Wolves within two points, but another block by Akwuba prevented them from tying the game.
Garnett sunk a pair of free throws to make it a two-possession game with 48 seconds remaining, and Arkansas State, who had hit 22 of their 25 free throw attempts up to that point missed two clutch shots at the stripe. Garnett answered with two more huge free throws to stretch the lead to six points late in overtime. A missed shot ended the game, and the Cajuns held on to win 83-77 in overtime at the Cajundome.
It was a great team performance by Louisiana in the win. They had five players score in double figures. Julien led the way with 20 points on 7-13 shooting. Akwuba had a monster double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds, adding three blocks to his stat sheet. Gueye stepped up with his own double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Wesley and Williams each added 12 and 11 points respectively.
Louisiana out-played a good Arkansas State team without their leading scorer, and they spent nearly 38 of the 45 minutes of game time in the lead. Defensively, the Cajuns did an excellent job on the Red Wolves' guards, holding their three starters to a combined 6-36 from the field.
Up next, Louisiana will look to improve to 4-0 in Sun Belt play when they host Little Rock at the Cajundome on Saturday, Jan. 8 at 7:00 p.m.