Louisiana Drops Second Straight, Lose 66-65 to Georgia Southern
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns suffered another heartbreaking home loss when they fell to the Georgia Southern Eagles 66-65 in the Cajundome on Saturday night.
With the loss, the Cajuns finished their four-game homestand with a 1-3 record. They've lost four of their last five games after starting 3-0 in Sun Belt Conference play, and they're now 9-10 overall. It's the first time this season that their record has dipped below .500 this season.
In some ways, this game was similar to the loss against Georgia State on Thursday night. Neither team from Georgia entered the Cajundome with a good conference record, but each took advantage of late droughts by the Cajuns offense to pull off close victories.
Louisiana did a lot of things well in the game. They had 14 steals and forced 23 Georgia Southern turnovers, scoring 25 points off of them. The Cajuns had a positive assist-to-turnover differential with 14 assists and 13 turnovers, and the Eagles had only seven points off of those turnovers.
The major stat that they struggled in was free throw shooting, especially in the clutch. Georgia Southern and Louisiana each made 17 free throws, but the Eagles only had 23 attempts while the Cajuns had 30. The 57% free throw shooting really hurt Louisiana in a one-point loss. Head coach Bob Marlin said the word to describe the game was disappointing.
"It's disappointing," Marlin said. "The boys tried hard, we just couldn't get it done. We've got to be able to make some free throws and we didn't do that. We just didn't finish. Our guys are really hurt right now."
Marlin talked about the frustrating four-game homestand.
"We've got to finish and make free throws," Marlin said. "We've got to keep our head up, keep playing, and get better. We're playing teams that are very hungry coming in here. We knew what we were getting on all four games of the homestand, but we didn't respond when we needed to."
The Cajuns struggled offensively to start the game, making only three of their first nine shot attempts. They also turned the ball over five times in the first five minutes. However, they only trailed 10-6 at the first official's timeout because they out-rebounded the Eagles 9-2, including 5-1 on offensive boards. The first six Louisiana points were thanks to offensive rebounds and second-chance opportunities.
Georgia Southern started 4-10 from the field, but hit three of five three-point attempts. Their third three gave them a five-point, 13-8 lead before Cajuns guard Michael Thomas made the team's first three-point shot of the game.
At this point, Louisiana started turning defense into offense. A block by forward Joe Charles led to a transition dunk by forward Kobe Julien to tie the game.
After Georgia Southern took the lead back with a put-back dunk, the Cajuns went on a 7-0 run in one minute of game time. A Charles three-pointer and two fast break baskets following steals put Louisiana in front 20-15 late in the first half.
Another steal set up a three-pointer by guard Kentrell Garnett to stretch the run to 10-0, but Georgia Southern finally broke it with a made jumper. The Cajuns went on a six-minute drought without a made field goal following that three, and the Eagles hit three straight three-pointers to take a 28-25 lead.
Finally, Julien's jumper rolled in to stop an 11-1 push by Georgia Southern. The Eagles answered two free throws by Thomas with a jumper to close the half, and Louisiana trailed 32-29.
Louisiana scored the first five points of the second half on two free throws by guard Trajan Wesley and a three by Julien. The two teams then went back-and-forth with four lead changes in the first four minutes of the half.
A shift to a full-court defense put pressure on the Georgia Southern guards, and the turnover numbers for the Eagles inflated. Forward Jordan Brown started getting involved in the second half, using a put-back lay-in and a dunk to put the Cajuns in front 43-42.
Louisiana did a good job of drawing fouls in the second half, but the same poor free throw shooting hurt them again. The Cajuns were fouled 10 times in the first eight minutes of the second half, setting up a double-bonus advantage for the rest of the half. However, they started 12-22 at the line for 55%. Brown completed a three-point play and hit a layup to give Louisiana a 48-44 advantage.
The Cajuns offense shut down after the layup, and Georgia Southern went on a 7-0 run to take a three-point lead, taking advantage of another extended scoring drought by Louisiana. A three-point shot by Garnett gave the Cajuns a 53-52 lead and finally broke a four minute streak without a made field goal.
Garnett's three sparked an 10-1 run where forward Dou Gueye hit a pair of free throws and Julien drilled his second three of the game. Following a steal, Gueye rebounded a missed three by Julien and dunked it. Georgia Southern broke a four minute drought without a field goal, but Julien's dunk on the other end made it 62-55 with less than four minutes remaining.
After Gueye's lay-up gave the Cajuns an eight-point advantage, the Eagles scored six straight with a three-pointer and a basket plus a foul. Louisiana's lead dwindled to 64-62 with just over a minute left. Brown missed two crucial free throws, and another continuation was called on the other end. Georgia Southern missed the free throw, so the game stayed tied at 64 with 45 seconds left.
Julien split a pair of free throws for the Cajuns, but, with 17 seconds remaining, the Eagles hit two clutch free throws to go up 66-65. In the final possession, Louisiana didn't get a shot off. A late pass to Brown was fumbled, and time expired. The Cajuns went the final three minutes without a made field goal and blew a late eight-point lead in the loss.
Marlin talked about the final possession.
"We had an inside-out play, and I thought Kentrell (Garnett) was open, but Mike (Thomas) didn't deliver the ball," Marlin said. "He was looking at Jordan (Brown) the whole time. We had a good play call right there and were ready to score the ball, but it just didn't happen."
Missed opportunities at the free throw line truly doomed Louisiana in this loss. The Cajuns had multiple chances to convert shots at the stripe late, but Brown, who was 2-7 at the line in the game missed two big free throws, and Julien split a pair in the final minute. In a one-point loss, these are the differences. One team converted and the other simply didn't.
Up next, Louisiana will head on a road trip for two games in Arkansas, starting with a game against Little Rock on Thursday, Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. The Cajuns had their game with the Trojans canceled in early January due to COVID-19 issues in the Little Rock program. The Trojans are 7-11 overall and 2-4 in Sun Belt play.