The short-handed Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns men's basketball team survived a second-half push on the road against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers and won 65-64.

With the victory, Louisiana improved to 7-5 overall and 2-0 in the Sun Belt Conference. They swept their opening weekend of conference play on the road with only nine players available. With head coach Bob Marlin missing after testing positive for COVID-19, assistant coach Neil Hardin gave all the credit to his team's effort.

"We're incredibly proud of what the guys did this weekend," Hardin said. "They did their job and were able to fight through adversity which is a sign of championship caliber teams."

Freshman forward Joe Charles nailed a three to start the game for Louisiana, and freshman guard Ty Harper added another to give the Cajuns an early 6-0 lead.

Defensively, Louisiana forced four early turnovers by the Chanticleers. Coastal Carolina took four minutes to make their first shot of the game off of a Cajuns turnover, and Louisiana's lead was 8-4 at the first official's timeout.

Coastal went on a 5-0 spurt, but both teams went on a scoreless drought. Louisiana held an 11-9 lead despite missing five consecutive shots. Freshman guard Michael Thomas broke that streak off of an excellent inbound pass by Charles.

The Cajuns made only six of their first 24 shots, but, in that same stretch, Coastal only had 10 shot attempts due to eight turnovers. A jumper by sophomore guard Durey Cadwell made it 17-13.

The Chanticleers scored five straight to take their first lead, but two free throws by Charles and a dunk by sophomore forward Jordan Brown made it 21-19 for the Cajuns.

Brown took over late in the first half. His three in the closing seconds sent the Cajuns into halftime with a 37-29 lead. The forward scored the final 14 points for Louisiana, and he led the team with 18 points on 7-9 shooting.

The Cajuns did a great job on the boards in the first half, out-rebounding Coastal 22-12. They also had 11 offensive rebounds to two for the Chanticleers.

Coastal Carolina started the second half on an 10-0 run to take the lead. Louisiana missed their first 11 shots and had four turnovers in the first seven minutes. Seven of those 11 shots were from three-point range, but the Cajuns were only 3-19 from distance. Louisiana trailed 41-38 before forward Kobe Julien hit his first field goal from three to tie it.

That shot sparked a 14-3 run for Louisiana. Two straight threes by Thomas and Cadwell stretched the lead back out to eight points at 52-44, and, after Coastal answered the run with a three of their own, Julien drilled his third shot from long distance in the second half.

A block by Brown led to a transition layup by Akwuba and the lead ballooned to 10 points: the largest it had been in the entire game. However, following that shot, Louisiana went on a three-minute scoring drought and Coastal took advantage with a 9-1 run to get within two points with three minutes left in the game.

Akwuba came up with a huge block to prevent the Chanticleers from tying the game, and Brown's first basket of the second half made it 60-56.

A clutch three by Coastal brought it back within one point, but Julien answered with a jumper. Two made free throws by the Chanticleers and a missed three by Louisiana set Coastal up with the ball and a chance to take the lead with 50 seconds left. A layup did just that, and the Chanticleers took a 63-62 lead. Brown missed a jumper that would have put the Cajuns back in front.

Coastal split free throws on the other end, and Julien nailed a clutch three to put Louisiana up 65-64 with six seconds remaining.

A contested jumper at the buzzer missed, and the Cajuns survived to sweep the opening weekend of Sun Belt Conference play on the road.

Brown led the team with 20 points, and Julien finished with 16 points in the second half. Louisiana was able to overcome lopsided foul and free throw numbers in the win. Coastal hit 23 of their 31 free throw attempts, while Louisiana was 12-16 at the line. The Cajuns made up for it by out-rebounding the Chanticleers 42-34.

Up next, Louisiana comes home to play Arkansas State in the Cajundome on Thursday, Jan. 6 at 7:00 p.m.

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