JONESBORO, Ark. (12/31/16) – Junior guard Rashad Lindsey scored a career-high 27 points to lead the Arkansas State men's basketball team to a 74-71 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in both team's Sun Belt Conference opener Saturday evening at the Convocation Center.
The Red Wolves snapped a two-game skid to improve their overall record to 10-4, which matches the Ragin' Cajuns mark this season. A-State now stands 12-3 all-time in Sun Belt openers played on its home court.
Including Lindsey, Arkansas State had three players score in double figures as Donte Thomas and Devin Carter added 12 and 10 points, respectively. The Red Wolves' Tamas Bruce was close to registering his first career double-double, finishing with eight points and a team-high eight rebounds.
"Heading into Sun Belt Conference play, we knew we were in for it with the number of great teams in this league," said A-State head coach Grant McCasland. "Louisiana is a great team and Coach Marlin is somebody I've respected for a long time and he always has a team that is really tough to guard. I thought our guys did a good job guarding consistently for 40 minutes. It showed up down the stretch as we were able to get some stops and get some rebounds. I'm disappointed that we didn't rebound well defensively and making some free throws would help. I felt like we made enough free throws when it mattered because we got enough stops and rebounds down the stretch. Great team win and we are excited to start 1-0 in league play."
A-State closed the first half with a 38-31 advantage and increased its lead to a game-high 10 points, 43-33, just over two minutes into the second half. The Ragin' Cajuns responded with an 11-3 run, however, to pull back within 46-44, and neither team led by more than four points over the final 15 minutes.
Those 15 minutes included six lead changes and seven ties, the last being 69-69 after Louisiana's Jay Wright hit a three with 4:18 left to play. A-State's C.J. Foster countered right back with a three on the next possession to give the Red Wolves the lead for good.
A pair of free throws by Louisiana at the 3:27 mark brought the score to 72-71, but those were the last points scored by the Ragin' Cajuns. A-State accounted for its final two points at the charity stripe, one by Lindsey and the last by Thomas with 12 seconds remaining on the clock. Louisiana took its final timeout with three seconds to go, and missed a contested three as time expired.
A-State finished with a .558 field goal percentage to the Ragin' Cajuns .400 mark, but was outrebounded 40-30 and saw Louisiana score 22 second-chance points.
The Ragin' Cajuns, led by Justin Miller's 16 points and Bryce Washington with 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, opened up a 12-5 lead, its largest of the game, six minutes into the contest. The Red Wolves then went on a 10-0 run to retake a lead it wouldn't give up the rest of the half.
"I know this team can improve a lot and that's what is so fun about coaching this team," said McCasland. "I'm excited about the areas we can improve because I felt like we played okay tonight, but I know we can get a lot better. Big picture, we are 1-0. All that matters is league play and you've got to win your home games. We held serve today and put ourselves in position to be successful in this league."