Slow Start, Turnovers Doom Louisiana in 67-58 Loss to Arkansas St.
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns men's basketball team made a second half push after starting slow on the road against Arkansas State, but they were unable to overcome a poor offensive performance in their 67-58 loss.
Louisiana is now 10-11 overall and 5-6 in Sun Belt Conference play. They missed an opportunity to sweep the road trip to Arkansas and climb the conference standings. Head coach Bob Marlin said his team's defense was good, but turnovers, guard play, and a slow start all hurt the Cajuns.
"We didn't play very well in the first few minutes," Marlin said. "We got off to a slow start and they built a lead. We adjusted at halftime and came out in the second half to cut the lead to four points, but they got three in a row to push the lead back to double figures."
"Our defense was good tonight, but we turned the ball over too many times," Marlin said. "We've got to play better, and we have to get better play at the point guard position too."
Arkansas State started well offensively, hitting five of their first seven shot attempts from the field to jump out to an early 12-4 lead. Defensively, the Cajuns started to tighten up. Forward Theo Akwuba blocked three shots in a short span, but Louisiana couldn't get anything going on offense. Following a layup by forward Kobe Julien, the Cajuns went on a five minute scoring drought where they turned the ball over five times and missed seven straight shots.
During this streak, the Red Wolves opened up a 15-point, 21-6 lead, but the Cajuns' first three-pointer of the game by guard Jalen Dalcourt broke the drought.
At the end of the first half, Louisiana started to creep back into the game thanks to good defensive pressure. Three pointers by guards Kentrell Garnett and Ty Harper got the Cajuns within 11 points at 32-21.
Akwuba hit a pair of free throws after the Red Wolves hit a late layup, and Louisiana entered halftime trailing 34-23.
The Cajuns struggled from the field in the first half, hitting only eight of their 28 shots before the break for 29%. After finding themselves in a hole early, they attempted 13 three pointers but only made three of them. Louisiana's ball security problem also continued. They had 11 turnovers to only three assists in the first half.
Louisiana stormed back into the game at the start of the second half, going on a 9-0 run to close the gap to four points at 38-34. A pair of Akwuba free throws kept the Cajuns within four. However, more turnovers prevented them from taking full advantage of another scoring drought by the Red Wolves.
The Cajuns turned the ball over four times in a crucial two-minute period midway through the second half. In response, Arkansas State hit three big three-pointers to get the lead back out to 13 points at 53-40. This was the difference maker in the entire game. Turnovers once again haunted Louisiana when the opposing team took advantage of them with points on the other end.
When the Cajuns had two chances to cut the lead to single digits, they turned the ball over both times. A reverse layup on the other end stretched the Red Wolves' lead back out to 61-48.
Three free throws by Julien cut the lead to 10, but the Cajuns went on another late drought without a field goal. Forward Jordan Brown's three broke an 0-5 streak that lasted four minutes. A technical foul on Arkansas State allowed Garnett to cut the lead to 61-56 with one minute remaining.
However, the Red Wolves hit six clutch free throws to balloon the lead back out to nine points. They held off a second half push by Louisiana and went on to win 67-58.
The Cajuns didn't play well on the offensive side in the loss. They made 18 of their 53 shot attempts for 34%, but they shot only 26% from distance after hitting six of their 23 three-point attempts. Brown and Julien combined for 37 points and 22 rebounds, but the guards for Louisiana only provided 11 points on 3-19 shooting. They finished with 20 turnovers and only eight assists. As Marlin said, the team needs to see better play from the guards to end the regular season.
After the game, Marlin said that the team is ready to come home and try to get a late season winning streak going.
"Our guys are disappointed but not discouraged," Marlin said. "We've got to go home and get another streak going. We know what's in front of us."
Up next, Louisiana hosts Texas State at the Cajundome on Thursday, Feb. 10 at 7:00 p.m. The Bobcats are currently 15-6 overall and 6-3 in Sun Belt play. The Cajuns lost 72-68 when the two teams met in San Marcos, Texas in January.