A short-handed Louisiana Men’s Basketball team put up a valiant effort against Sun Belt Conference opponent Texas State, opening the second half with an 8-0 run to cut the lead to one, but the Ragin’ Cajuns would run out of gas late and drop a 68-59 decision on Saturday at the Cajundome.
Jalen Johnson scored 18 points to lead three players in double figures for Louisiana (7-13, 2-7 Sun Belt), which played without its second-leading scorer Cedric Russell (foot) and dressed nine players (seven on scholarship) for the fourth straight game.
Texas State (12-8, 5-4 Sun Belt), which won its fourth straight game and fifth in its last six contests, never trailed after Nijal Pearson’s 3-pointer with 15:46 remaining in the first half snapped a 6-6 tie. The Bobcats twice extended their lead to 10 points in the first half, the last on a bucket by Marlin Davis with 4:27 remaining, and led 37-28 at the break.
Louisiana opened the second half on an 8-0 run that started when Tirus Smith got a putback basket off a miss by Johnson. Smith, who scored six of his eight points during the span, added a pair of free throws and followed up a Dou Gueye miss with a thunderous dunk that cut the Bobcat lead to 37-34.
Gueye, who missed Thursday’s game against UT Arlington due to the flu, cut the lead to 37-36 on the ensuing possession as he snagged a missed shot from Calvin Temple and scored a bucket in the lane at the 18:15 mark and prompting the Bobcats to call timeout.
The Bobcats, who defeated the Ragin’ Cajuns for the first time in Lafayette in seven meetings, would respond with a 10-0 run as Mason Harrell drained a 3-pointer before buckets by Isiah Small, Alonzo Sule and a 3-pointer by Pearson pushed the Texas State lead to 47-36.
Louisiana would get as close as 49-42 when Johnson scored with 12:47 remaining, but Pearson would follow with a 3-pointer and Texas State would not let the Ragin’ Cajuns get closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Pearson, who entered the game as the Sun Belt’s leading scorer (19.9) and had scored 20 or more points in six straight games, scored a team-high 18 points to lead Texas State. Harrell and Small added 12 points each for Texas State, which finished 26-for-61 (42.6 percent) from the floor and 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
Gueye and P.J. Hardy scored 11 points each for Louisiana, which went 20-for-56 (35.7 percent) from the floor while finishing a perfect 13-for-13 from the free throw line. Smith grabbed nine rebounds for Louisiana, which held a 36-35 advantage on the glass including 12 offensive boards.
Louisiana will return to action on Saturday (Jan. 25) when it hosts in-state opponent ULM in a Sun Belt Conference game at the Cajundome. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., with fans treated to a halftime performance for the second consecutive year by Red Panda, one of the top national acts.
Red Panda has performed her unicycle-bowl-flipping act at halftime shows for more than two decades, and has amassed a cult following among diehard fans and sportswriters over the past two decades.
A fourth-generation acrobat, she has performed at numerous basketball venues across the country, both at the college and professional levels.