LAFAYETTE – Devin Butts opened overtime with a go-ahead 3-pointer and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Men’s Basketball team scored the first five points in the extra session to hold off Texas State, 83-77, in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams on Friday at the Cajundome.
Butts and Mylik Wilson combined for 43 points as Louisiana (7-1, 1-0 Sun Belt) claimed its first Sun Belt-opening victory since claiming the 2017-18 championship. The game against Texas State (6-4, 0-1 Sun Belt) was the first of a two-game set between the schools with the finale scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Butts, who posted career-highs in both points (22) and 3-pointers (6), got the Ragin’ Cajuns going in the extra stanza after connecting on his sixth 3-pointer of the game and snapping a 72-all tie. Cedric Russell added a pair of free throws with 4:15 remaining for a 77-72 lead with Texas State not getting any closer than three points the rest of the game.
Following a pair of buckets by Texas State’s Isiah Small, the last one that cut the Bobcats’ deficit to 79-76 with 2:56 remaining, Wilson added a putback off a Russell miss in the lane would keep the Louisiana lead at five points with Russell eventually hitting a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left to give the Ragin’ Cajuns their biggest lead of the game (83-77).
Texas State built a seven-point lead in the first half and led 36-33 at halftime before extending its lead. A four-point play by Mason Harrell opened an 8-0 run for the Bobcats with Shelby Adams following with a bucket in the lane and Nighael Ceaser scoring a basket for a 57-47 lead with 9:38 remaining in regulation.
The Bobcats led 61-51 on Small’s dunk off a turnover with 7:16 left, but Louisiana would storm back with a 14-2 run to claim its first lead since early in the first half. Freshman Kentrell Garnett started the rally with a bucket before Akwuba hit the first of two free throws to cut the Bobcat lead to 61-54.
After a bucket by Alonzo Sule with 6:09 left that gave Texas State a 63-54 lead, Louisiana scored the next 11 points as freshman Ty Harper drained a 3-pointer for his first collegiate points and Butts would follow with a three-point play.
Wilson, who tied his season-high with 21 points, converted on another three-point play that knotted the game at 63-all with 4:45 left before Harper put Louisiana ahead on the next possession after an Akwuba block.
Russell, who added 14 points, sank two free throws with 17 seconds left that gave Louisiana a 72-69 lead, but Texas State would force overtime as Adams sank a 3-pointer from the left wing with 1.5 seconds left.
Wilson posted a double-double – the fourth of his career – after pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds. The sophomore blocked a career-high three shots and added four steals as Louisiana forced 20 turnovers in the game.
Akwuba scored 10 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked six shots for Louisiana, which held a 37-32 advantage on the glass.
Small led all players with a career-high 24 points, finishing 11-for-15 from the floor and 2-for-3 from behind the 3-point line. Adams added 13 points for the Bobcats with Harrell and Caleb Asberry scoring 11 each.
Saturday’s finale will be available on ESPN+ with Dan McDonald (pxp) and former Ragin' Cajuns point guard Eric Mouton (color) on the call. The game can also be heard in the Lafayette area on KPEL 96.5 FM with Jay Walker providing the commentary. Live stats will be available at CajunStats.com.
In an effort to limit exposure due to COVID concerns, Sun Belt Conference teams will host one opponent for two games on Friday and Saturday each week during the 2020-21 season. Additionally, Louisiana will only play its divisional opponents, playing four schools (Arkansas State, Little Rock, Texas State and UT Arlington) a total of four times, while playing its traditional travel partner (ULM) twice.
Season-ticket holders can download their tickets through mobile ticketing from Ticketmaster. Fans can download the #GeauxCajuns app to their smart phone to begin the process. Season-ticket holders who are unable to download tickets or wish to have printed can visit the Louisiana Athletics Ticket Office at the Cajundome to have them printed.
For more information on Men's Basketball tickets, fans can call the Louisiana Athletics Ticket Office at (337) 265-2170.
The Cajundome will operate at a significantly reduced capacity for the 2020-21 season (unless state COVID-19 policy changes during the season). This will allow for fans and University students to be accommodated this season. The Department of Athletics will quickly communicate any schedule adjustments or changes to attendance protocols through its social media channels and RaginCajuns.com.
In the interest of public safety and following the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) Best Practices Guide, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Athletics Department is implementing a clear bag policy at all venues that host ticketed events effective with the 2020-21 competition season. Information about the clear bag policy can be found by visiting www.RaginCajuns.com/clearbag.
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.