PENSACOLA, Fla. – The Louisiana men’s basketball team punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a thrilling 71-66 win over South Alabama in the Sun Belt Tournament championship game Monday at the Pensacola Bay Center.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will make their seventh appearance all-time in the NCAA Tournament and first since 2014. The win marked the fifth time Louisiana has won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament and second under head coach Bob Marlin.
South Alabama took control of the game early in the first half and led by as many as seven, 14-7, just five minutes in to the game. The Ragin’ Cajuns chipped away at the lead and led for the first time, 21-20, with 10:20 left to go in the half. The Jaguars responded with a 7-0 run and led 37-33 at the half after shooting 62.5-percent from the floor and held Louisiana scoreless for the final 2:57.
Louisiana stepped up big in the second half, limiting South Alabama to 8-of-23 from the field while shooting 60.9-percent (14-for-23) to erase the four-point deficit. The Cajuns took their first lead of the second half with 12:06 remaining as Terence Lewis II made a dunk to give Louisiana a 47-46 advantage. Louisiana built its lead to as high as six with 8:55 left to go.
South Alabama was able to trim the lead to one, 67-66, with 17 seconds left, but Lewis buried both of his free throws before Kentrell Garnett sealed the win with a pair of free throws with a little over a second remaining.
Jordan Brown earned the SBC Tournament Most Outstanding Player distinction after finishing the game with 13 points and 16 rebounds. Themus Fulks added a team-high, and career-high, 23 points to go along with three assists as Lewis, who was named to the All-Tournament Team, scored 12 points and hauled in five rebounds. Jalen Dalcourt added 12 points and two steals and hit three of his four 3-pointers.
The Ragin’ Cajuns learn their NCAA Tournament matchup and destination on Selection Sunday. The show airs on CBS beginning at 5 p.m.
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