JONESBORO, Ark. – Cedric Russell scored the go-ahead bucket in overtime and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball team withstood an incredible second-half performance by Arkansas State’s Ty Cockfield to earn a 90-87 victory in the Sun Belt Conference regular-season finale for both teams on Saturday at First National Bank Arena.
JaKeenan Gant scored 25 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had four blocks – including a potential game-tying attempt in the final seconds of overtime – as Louisiana (19-12, 10-8 SBC) earned the No. 5 seed in next week’s Sun Belt Conference Championships in New Orleans.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will play on Thursday at 5 p.m., against the winner of Tuesday’s first-round game between South Alabama (15-16, 8-10 SBC) and Arkansas State (13-18, 7-11 SBC).
Louisiana led 42-34 at halftime and 52-39 with 17:12 remaining after a bucket by P.J. Hardy. The Ragin’ Cajuns defense kept Cockfield, the league’s No. 2 scorer entering the game, in check after the senior was 2-for-10 from the floor and 0-for-4 from long range.
But Cockfield single-handedly brought the Red Wolves back into the game, going 11-for-19 from the floor and 6-for-10 from behind the 3-point line after halftime. He scored seven points in an 11-0 run for the Red Wolves that turned a 72-60 Louisiana lead into a 72-71 battle with 5:53 left.
Louisiana pushed the lead to 81-75 on a 3-pointer by Hardy with 2:37 remaining before Arkansas State battled back, forcing an 84-all deadlock on Cockfield’s 3-pointer with 17.2 seconds left.
Russell, who finished with 13 points, gave Louisiana an 86-84 lead with 3:02 left in overtime before Trajan Wesley converted on a three-point play after Gant blocked Marquis Eaton’s attempt in the lane.
Cockfield, who scored 31 of his 35 points in the second half, answered with a three-point play with 2:29 left, but Louisiana would hold A-State scoreless the rest of the way in clinching the win.
Justin Miller notched a double-double for Louisiana scoring 16 points and grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds. Hardy added 17 points, including five 3-pointers, as Louisiana finished 10-for-22 from behind the 3-point line while holding a 43-41 advantage on the glass.
Marcus Stroman, who was limited to three minutes in the second half due to injury, dished out eight assists and became the first player in school history to record two seasons with 200 or more assists.
Eaton added 15 points for the Red Wolves while Christian Willis added 12 and Tristan Walley 10.
SUN BELT CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT TICKETS AVAILABLE
• Tickets booklets for the 2019 Sun Belt Conference Tournament, scheduled for March 13-17 at New Orleans’ Lakefront Arena, are currently on sale on-line at RaginCajuns.com, using Account Manager, or by visiting the Louisiana Athletics Ticket Office Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
• For more information, call the Louisiana Athletics Ticket Office at (337) 265-2357.
2019 SUN BELT MEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE
Tuesday, March 12 (First Round at Campus Sites)
Game 1 – No. 9 Arkansas State at No. 8 South Alabama (ESPN+), 7 p.m.
Game 2 – No. 10 Appalachian State at No. 7 ULM (ESPN+), 7 p.m.
Thursday, March 14 (Second Round at Lakefront Arena)
Game 3 – Game 1 Winner vs. No. 5 Louisiana (ESPN+), 5 p.m.
Game 4 – Game 2 Winner vs. No. 6 Coastal Carolina (ESPN+), 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 15 (Quarterfinals at Lakefront Arena)
Game 5 – Game 3 Winner vs. No. 4 Texas State (ESPN+), 5 p.m.
Game 6 – Game 4 Winner vs. No. 3 Georgia Southern (ESPN+), 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 16 (Semifinals at Lakefront Arena)
Game 7 – Game 5 Winner vs. No. 1 Georgia State (ESPN+), 3 p.m.
Game 8 – Game 6 Winner vs. No. 2 UTA (ESPN+), 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 17 (Championship at Lakefront Arena)
Game 9 – Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner (ESPN2), 1 p.m.
All Times are Central and Subject to Change
FOLLOW THE CAJUNS
Follow the Ragin’ Cajuns on Twitter (@RaginCajunsMBB), Facebook (RaginCajunsMBB) or Instagram (@RaginCajunsMBB) to stay up-to-date on all that is happening with Louisiana Men’s Basketball.