LAFAYETTE (Press Release) – Marcus Stroman scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half while JaKeenan Gant and Justin Miller each added 19 points, but Arkansas State built a 16-point lead in the second half and held off a Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns rally for a 94-83 victory in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams on Thursday at the Cajundome.
Marquis Eaton scored a career-high 24 points and Grantham Gillard added 20 as A-State (7-7, 1-0 SBC) used a 19-4 run to build a double-digit lead and fend off a pair of Louisiana (9-5, 0-1 SBC) rallies.
Louisiana opened the game on a 17-9 run and led 27-22 on a bucket by Gant before the Red Wolves would chip away at the lead. A three-point play by Ty Cockfield and bucket by Eaton tied the game at 27-all before two free throws by Salif Boudie and a 3-pointer by Cockfield gave Arkansas State a 32-27 lead.
The Ragin’ Cajuns responded to take a 33-32 lead on Gant’s layup with 2:16 remaining in the first half before the teams traded leads. Gillard snapped a 34-all deadlock for Arkansas State with a deep 3-pointer, beginning a stretch of five straight 3-pointers for the Red Wolves which ended early in the second half.
After Gant’s 3-pointer tied the game at 37-37 with 55 seconds remaining in the half, the Red Wolves buried a pair 3-pointers with Gillard and Eaton burying shots to give Arkansas State a 43-37 lead at halftime.
The Red Wolves opened the second half on an 8-0 run as a bucket by Gillard gave A-State a 51-37 lead. Gillard, who drained four of Arkansas State’s 10 3-pointers in the game, gave the Red Wolves a 73-57 lead with 10:05 remaining before Louisiana staged a rally.
Stroman, who finished with a team-high six rebounds with six assists, converted a three-point play that got Louisiana to within 73-64 with 8:39 remaining in the game before adding a bucket that got the Ragin’ Cajuns to as close as 85-81 with 2:39 left.
The Red Wolves would ice the game scoring the game’s next six points as a jumper by Eaton along with a pair of free throws by Gillard and Malik Brevard gave Arkansas State a 91-81 advantage.
P.J. Hardy added 11 points with three 3-pointers in his second career start for Louisiana, which finished 27-for-63 (43 percent) from the floor and 5-for-24 (21 percent) from behind the 3-point line. Stroman, who notched his third 20-point game this season and led Louisiana with three steals, sank 13 of 16 attempts from the free throw line.
Cockfield finished with 18 points for the Red Wolves, who held a decisive 46-26 advantage on the glass which resulted in 21 second-chance points. Boudie added 12 points and 11 rebounds for Arkansas State, which earned its second win at the Cajundome in the last 12 contests dating back to 2008.
Louisiana will return to action on Saturday (Jan. 5) when it faces Little Rock (5-9, 0-1 SBC) in a SBC contest at the Cajundome. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and will be streamed live on ESPN+.