Jonesboro, AR (A-State) – The Arkansas State men’s basketball team got at least 13 points from four different players and had its Sun Belt Conference game against Louisiana tied with less than six minutes to play, but a late 9-0 run by the Ragin’ Cajuns proved to be too much for the Red Wolves to overcome in an 88-78 setback Sunday afternoon at First National Bank Arena.
A-State fell for just the second time in seven games on its home court, while its overall record moved to 6-9 and league mark to 1-1. Louisiana now stands 2-0 in Sun Belt Conference play and holds a league-best 12-3 overall record.
The Red Wolves were led by senior guard Rashad Lindsey with a season-high 18 points, while senior forward Tamas Bruce and senior guard Deven Simms scored 14 each and junior guard Ty Cockfield added 13. Bruce narrowly missed his second straight double-double, also finishing with a team-high nine rebounds.
Louisiana countered with five players reaching double digits, including senior guard Frank Bartley with a game-high 23 points. The Ragin’ Cajuns shot 55.4 percent from the floor in comparison to A-State’s .476 percentage, and they were aided by a 20-of-25 performance at the free throw line and 37-28 advantage on the boards. The Red Wolves made 11-of-16 shots from the charity stripe.
How It Happened (First Half):
The first half featured three ties and four lead changes and ended deadlocked at 40-40. A-State’s largest advantage was six points on three different occasions, while Louisiana’s largest lead was four points early in the contest.
Arkansas State took its first lead at 6-5 almost five minutes into the game and it wouldn’t trail again until the closing moments of the opening half. A-State held a 29-23 lead with 6:09 remaining, but the Ragin’ Cajuns slowly chipped away until tying the contest at 35-35 at the 2:52 mark. Louisiana pulled ahead 40-39 with six seconds left before the break, but a free throw by Lindsey tied it up heading into the locker room.
How It Happened (Second Half):
The second half was a back-and-forth battle, although the Ragin’ Cajuns led 74-68 with 6:31 left in the contest. The Red Wolves responded with three’s from Lindsey and Cockfield on back-to-back possessions to force the game’s 10th tie at 74-74 over a 41 second span.
However, the Ragin’ Cajuns broke the tie on a three by Johnathan Stove to spark a 9-0 run that gave them an 83-74 advantage with 2:40 to play. The Red Wolves closed the gap to five points just 28 seconds later, but couldn’t get any closer. Louisiana closed out the contest by scoring the last five points, all at the free throw line.
Quoting Coach Balado:
“It was a hard-fought game and obviously not the outcome we wanted, but that’s a good team. Our hats off to them and Coach Marlin. We faced probably the best front court in the league tonight and they hurt us early with offensive rebounding. They got some second shots and got us in a little foul trouble, but they were in foul trouble too. We tried to take advantage of that in the first half. In the second half, (JaKeenan) Gant was very good. The key to their team is (Marcus) Stroman and he almost had a triple-double. To me, he’s playing the best of any player in the league right now. It’s hard to win when a guy plays like that against you.”
“We had some breakdowns defensively, I think it was with three minutes to go, when we didn’t get back. We took some illegitimate shots that we shouldn’t have taken. I think we rushed those shots, but we’ll watch the film and get better. Every game in conference is going to be a war, and in my opinion that was the best team in the league we played tonight. Hopefully, we’ll see them down the road.”
A-State returns to the road for its next two outings, playing at Georgia Southern Thursday, Jan. 4, at 6:30 p.m. and two days later on Saturday at Georgia State at 1:30 p.m. The Red Wolves next home game is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 11 against Texas State at 7:30 p.m.