Red Wolves Pop Cajuns in SBC Opener, 94-83
Last year en route to a 16-2 league record and a Sun Belt Conference Championship, one thing the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns could always depend on was the ability to pound the boards and turn missed shots into points.
Tonight, the Cajuns were on the receiving end of that statistic.
Arkansas State turned 16 offensive rebounds into a 21-9 lead in second chance points en route to a 94-83 win at the Cajundome before 3,532 fans.
The Red Wolves (7-7, 1-0 Sun Belt) were able to use a 20 rebound advantage and ten three pointers to offset 22 turnovers in getting the win.
Marquis Eaton scored a career high 24 points, while Grantham Gillard added 20. Leading scorer Ty Cockfield scored 18 points and Salif Boudie had a double double with 12 points and eleven rebounds. Eaton, Gillard and Cockfield combined to shoot 9-19 from beyond the arc.
For the Cajuns (9-5, 0-1), Marcus Stroman scored 25 points, including 13-16 from the free throw line. JaKeenan Gant and Justin Miller added 19 points each and P. J. Hardy chipped in eleven. The Cajuns were just 5-24 from the bonusphere, with Hardy hitting 3-7 and the remainder of the team 2-17.
The game was tied at 37 late in the first half, but Gillard hit a triple with :36 seconds left and after a missed shot, Eaton drilled a three from the corner as the first half ended to give the Red Wolves a 43-37 lead at the break. Arkansas State completed a 14-0 run by hitting a pair of triples on their first two possessions and a layup by Gillard to lead 51-37 with 18:26 to play.
The Red Wolves took their biggest lead after a pair of free throws by Gillard with 10:34 left, making the score 71-57. But Louisiana went on a 9-0 run with Gant and Cedric Russell hitting baskets and Stroman scoring five points to get the Cajuns within 73-66 with 8:29 to play.
Gillard hit another triple with 3:33 to play to give Arkansas State an 85-77 lead, but Miller and Stroman hit layups to get the Cajuns within four, 85-81 with 2:39 to play. But the Cajuns could get no closer.
The Cajuns are back in action Saturday night when they entertain Little Rock, with tipoff scheduled for 7:00.