LAFAYETTE – Late game heroics by junior guard Trajan Wesley carried Louisiana into overtime where the Ragin’ Cajuns prevailed over Arkansas State 83-77 and improved to 3-0 in Sun Belt Conference play Thursday night at the Cajundome.
Redshirt-freshman Kobe Julien led Louisiana offensively with 20 points and added three rebounds. It is Julien’s second 20+ point game this season and the third of his career.
Junior forward Theo Akwuba totaled 16 points and 15 rebounds on the night. For the Montgomery Ala. native, the performance marks the third time in his career that he has grabbed 15+ boards and the second time in his career that he has tallied 15+ points and 15+ rebounds. Akwuba was an efficient 8-9 from the floor in 34 minutes of action.
Senior forward Dou Gueye posted the 10th double-double of his career with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
After being held scoreless in the first half, Welsey tallied 12 second-half points including Louisiana’s final six points in regulation. The junior added three rebounds and three assists to go along with his scoring output.
The Red Wolves held a slight advantage as the opening minutes were erased from the clock. Arkansas State took a three-point lead near the 13-minute mark, but Julien put Louisiana in front by a basket with a personal 8-0 that featured back-to-back 3-pointers.
Once in the lead, the Ragin’ Cajuns did not trail again until the 3:14 mark of the second half.
Holding a four-point advantage with just over five minutes left in the half, junior guard Greg Williams Jr. jumped in front of a Red Wolves’ pass and soared in for a dunk on the opposite end. The play sparked a 10-2 Louisiana run that was capped off with a layup by the junior.
The Lafayette, La. native scored 11 points after missing the opening games of conference play last week.
Arkansas State went on a small rally and knocked the lead back down to five when the buzzer sounded at the end of the first half.
Julien and Akwuba paced the Ragin’ Cajuns offense early in the second half, but Louisiana was unable to find any additional separation.
Kentrell Garnett buried a 3-pointer to push the lead to seven with just under 13 minutes remaining, but Arkansas State responded with a 6-0 run to narrow the advantage.
Back-to-back shots from beyond the arc and a second-chance layup by Akwuba gave the Ragin’ Cajuns a nine-point lead at the eight and a half minute mark.
Following the run, Louisiana’s offense began to stall and the Red Wolves took a 68-67 lead at the 3:14 mark with a 15-5 run that spanned over five minutes of game time.
As the game hung in the balance, Wesley took over and scored six points in the closing minutes, but a 3-pointer by Arkansas State’s Caleb Fields sent the contest into overtime tied at 73.
Akwuba set the pace in the extra period with a pair of back-to-back buckets around the rim.
After a Red Wolves’ bucket, Greg Williams Jr. shook his defender and knocked down and midrange jump shot to give Louisiana a 79-75 advantage.
Arkansas State converted a pair of free throws at the line, but Louisiana’s defense stifled any game-tying buckets as the Ragin’ Cajuns closed the win out at the charity stripe.
Norchad Omier, the conference Preseason Player of the Year finished the game with 29 points.
Lousiana will be back in action 7 p.m. Saturday to face Little Rock at the Cajundome. The game will be available to be live-streamed on ESPN+.
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