LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Press Release) – Cedric Russell scored 21 of his career-high 34 points in the second half and Louisiana rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half to defeat Little Rock, 77-72, in a Sun Belt Conference men’s basketball game on Thursday at the Jack Stephens Center.
P.J. Hardy scored all of his 15 points from behind the 3-point line as Louisiana (18-12, 9-8 SBC) moved into a fifth-place tie with Coastal Carolina heading into the regular-season finale on Saturday. Little Rock, which dropped its fifth straight game and was eliminated qualifying for next week’s SBC Tournament, fell to 10-20 overall and 5-12 in league play.
The win for Louisiana marked the 100th league victory for head coach Bob Marlin. Marlin, who improved to 100-63 in Sun Belt Conference games in his career, became the fifth coach in league history to reach the mark, joining a list that includes Kermit Davis, Jr. (Middle Tennessee), Ronnie Arrow (South Alabama), Gene Bartow (UAB) and Dickie Nutt (Arkansas State).
Louisiana trailed 54-42 with 12:51 remaining after Nikola Maric’s three-point play sent Ragin’ Cajuns leading scorer JaKeenan Gant to the bench with his fifth foul. The Trojans’ lead remained at 12 with 8:34 remaining after a dunk by Kris Bankston before Louisiana roared back.
Hardy, who finished 5-for-10 from the floor and 5-for-9 from behind the 3-point line, drained three 3-pointers in an 18-5 run before a bucket by Marcus Stroman with 3:53 left gave Louisiana a 69-68 lead.
After Little Rock regained the lead, 70-69, on two free throws by Bankston with 3:30 left, Russell gave drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner to put Louisiana back up for good before Stroman drove the lane and scored for a 74-70 advantage with 2:25 left.
Stroman, who dished out eight assists and became the ninth player in school history to record 400 assists in a career, added a free throw before recording both of his team-high two steals in the final 30 seconds to help seal the win.
Louisiana scored the game’s first 10 points and never trailed until a 3-pointer by Rayjon Tucker gave Little Rock a 36-34 lead. The Trojans led 39-37 at halftime and took advantage of having Gant on the bench in foul trouble, extending their lead to 51-40 on a dunk by Maric with 13:37 left.
Gant, who scored a Cajundome-record 45 points in the previous meeting between the schools, was limited to five points on 2 of 6 shooting in 13 minutes of play. Jerekius Davis added eight points and six rebounds before fouling out 4:09 remaining while Stroman scored eight points.
Maric led Little Rock with 24 points and 10 rebounds with Tucker adding 19 points and Bankston 13. The Ragin’ Cajuns forced 20 turnovers which led to a 22 points while outscoring the Trojans, 40-33, in the second half.
Louisiana will close out the regular-season on Saturday (March 9) at Arkansas State in a 4 p.m., tipoff.