Cajuns drop Sun Belt home opener to Little Rock

Cajun Nation

(UL ATHLETICS) – Ruot Monyyong scored 12 of his team-high 21 points in the second half and Little Rock heated up from the floor after intermission, making 12 of its final 16 shots down the stretch and rallying past the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, 69-66, in a Sun Belt Conference men’s basketball on Saturday at the Cajundome.

Kamani Johnson added 19 points on 8-for-8 shooting while Ben Coupet, Jr., added 11 as Little Rock (8-5, 2-0 Sun Belt) overcame double-digit deficits during its two-game trip to the Bayou State while sweeping both games by a combined four points. The Trojans finished 14-for-22 (63.6 percent) from the floor in the second half and was 28-for-54 (51.9 percent) for the game.

Louisiana (5-7, 0-2 Sun Belt) held a 50-37 lead with 17:16 remaining after a bucket by Jalen Johnson, but the Ragin’ Cajuns would go cold from the floor missing 14 of their final 17 attempts from the floor.

A free throw by Tirus Smith with 16:35 remaining gave Louisiana its biggest lead of the night – 51-37 – but Little Rock would go on a 19-4 run over the next 10-plus minutes to take the lead for the first time since late in the first half.

A bucket by Kamani Johnson with 6:04 remaining gave Little Rock a 56-55 lead and the teams traded the lead before Louisiana would take a 63-60 lead on two free throws by Jalen Johnson with 2:13 left.

But the Ragin’ Cajuns commit two turnovers on their next two possessions while a 3-pointer by Markquis Nowell with :56 remaining gave the Trojans the lead for good, 65-63.

Louisiana cut the lead to 67-66 when Mylik Wilson drained a 3-pointer from the left corner with 9.7 seconds remaining, and after Isaiah Palermo sank a pair of free throws for the Trojans with 3.4 remaining, Cedric Russell’s potential game-tying 3-pointer on a perfectly designed inbounds play rimmed out at the buzzer.

Monyyong and Kamani Johnson combined to go 17-for-21 from the floor for Little Rock as Nowell, the league’s leading scorer entering the game (20.9 points), was held to seven points while battling foul trouble. Monyyong pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds for a double-double for the Trojans.

Jalen Johnson tied a career-high, scoring a game-high 26 points for Louisiana while pulling down a team-high nine rebounds. Russell added 11 points for the Ragin’ Cajuns with Wilson and Trajan Wesley each scoring eight points with four assists.

The Ragin’ Cajuns led 41-33 at halftime after shooting 14-for-30 (46.7 percent) from the floor, but went 7-for-22 (31.8 percent) in the second half.

Louisiana will return from the Christmas holiday on Dec. 29 when it hosts Big West Conference member UC Santa Barbara at the Cajundome. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m.

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