LAFAYETTE – Cedric Russell and Theo Akwuba combined for 50 points, including 33 in the second half as the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns used a strong second half and defeated Arkansas State, 81-68, in a Sun Belt Conference Men’s Basketball game on Friday at the Cajundome.
Russell tied a season-high with 26 points for Louisiana (10-4, 4-3 Sun Belt), increasing his career scoring total to 1,209 points and moving past Michael Southall (1,193, 2001-06) for 32nd place in school history. The senior guard, who needs three points to move past Alonza Allen (1,211, 1980-84) for 31st place, finished 9-for-14 from the floor for the game and 6-for-9 in the second half as the Ragin’ Cajuns outscored A-State (5-7, 2-3 Sun Belt), 54-37, after halftime.
The win marked the 113th career Sun Belt Conference victory for head coach Bob Marlin as he moved into sole possession of second place in the league’s career win total. Marlin, who entered the game tied with former South Alabama coach Ronnie Arrow for second, improved to 113-78 in SBC games and is four wins shy of tying former Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis, Jr., for the all-time lead.
Akwuba scored a career-high 24 points for the Ragin’ Cajuns, finishing 10-for-13 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. The 6-foot-11 junior also grabbed 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season while blocking three shots.
After both teams struggled from the floor in opening half, Louisiana opened the second half with a 12-5 run to take its first lead since midway in the opening stanza. Russell and Mylik Wilson combined to score the first seven points of the half for the Ragin’ Cajuns with Russell’s 3-pointer from the left corner knotting the game at 34-34 with 18:28 remaining.
Arkansas State, which built a built a 28-21 lead in the first half on Marquis Eaton’s 3-pointer at the 2:25 mark, took its last lead (46-45) with 12:08 remaining on a pair of free throws by Eaton.
The Ragin’ Cajuns would take the lead for good on their next possession as Isaiah Richards’ three-point play – his only bucket of the game – put Louisiana ahead 48-46 with 11:52 remaining. Akwuba and Russell would follow with buckets for Louisiana, which shot 19-for-33 (57.6 percent) in the second half before later responding with an 8-0 run after the Red Wolves cut the lead to 52-50 with 9:11 left.
Akwuba gave Louisiana a 60-50 lead with a pair of free throws with 7:37 left and Arkansas State never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Wilson added 10 points, three rebounds and three steals for Louisiana, which held the Red Wolves to 19-for-55 (34.5 percent) from the floor for the game and 8-for-27 (29.6 percent) in the second half. Dou Gueye added eight points and eight rebounds for the Ragin’ Cajuns, who held a 39-33 advantage on the glass against the league’s No. 2-ranked rebounding squad.
Eaton scored 15 points to lead Arkansas State with freshman Norchad Omier recording a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Malcolm Farrington added 11 points off the bench for the Red Wolves, who dropped their third straight contest to the Ragin’ Cajuns overall and ninth loss in their last 11 games at the Cajundome.