Cajuns March On In SBC Tournament

NEW ORLEANS, La. – The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns overcame a cold-shooting first half to run by No. 8 seed Texas State in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, 53-43, on Friday at Lakefront Arena.

Louisiana (20-12), the tournament's No. 4 seed, shot 45.8 percent in the second half after a first half that saw them put up just 18 points and shoot 17.9 percent from the field.

"That was a good defensive ball game by both teams," Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin said following the game. "In the first half we did not score the ball, but give [Texas State] some credit defensively. We missed a bunch of shots and made five field goals. Our defense kept us in it."

The win secures the 21st 20-win season in UL program history and the first back-to-back 20-win season since 2001-02 and 2002-03. The Cajuns will now move on to a rematch of last season's SBC Tournament championship game in the semifinals when they take on No. 1 Georgia State at 1:00 p.m. in a game to be aired on ESPN3.

Kasey Shepherd poured in a game-high 16 points in 24 minutes off the Cajun bench, and Shawn Long became just the third player in Cajun history with 1,000 rebounds, pulling in a game-high 11. Long scored just six points for the game, but added a game-high four assists and four blocked shots.

Johnathan Stove was the only other Cajun to finish in double figures with 10 points, while fellow freshman Bryce Washington hauled in 10 rebounds to go with six points.

"Bryce Washington did a nice job and Kasey Shepherd gave us a boost in the second half with his speed as well," Marlin said. "The fouls were six to one. They got to the bonus quick. That's something we want to do, but once we started attacking we were able to get to the free throw line and score. That gave us a little bit of a lead."

Kavin Tilbury and Emani Gant led the Bobcats with 10 points apiece; however, Texas State shot just 27.7 percent for the game and scored just 11 points in the final 15:42 of game time after holding a 32-23 lead early in the second half.

The Cajuns hit their first three triples of the opening half and led by as much as five, but went cold for nearly the final nine minutes of the period as the Bobcats rallied to take a 21-18 lead into the break.

Louisiana missed its final 16 shots from the floor after a layup from Washington had UL up 17-14 with 8:53 left on the clock. The Cajuns got a foul shot from Long nearly two minutes later and remained scoreless for the final 7:12.

"I encouraged the guys during the first half that our defense was fine and it was our ball to start the second half and we'd get off to a good start. Unfortunately, it didn't," Marlin said. "In the first few minutes, they jumped on us and we didn't defend, but the last 12 minutes or so of the game, I thought we did a real nice job defensively and did a good job on the glass."

Still, UL held on to the lead until D.J. Brown connected on the first three-pointer of the game for Texas State with 4:10 to play as the Bobcats scored the final seven points of the half.

Texas State started off hot in the second half, scoring six straight points after a tip-in from Long on the Cajuns opening possession. A layup from Cameron Naylor and a foul shot from Gant upped the Bobcat lead to nine at 32-23, but that's when the Cajuns went to work offensively.

Shepherd nailed UL's only three of the second half two possessions later to spark what would be a 19-3 Cajun run over the next 7:10, scoring nine of his 16 points for the game in that span. Ethan Montalvo delivered the Bobcats' only score during that stretch with a three to keep Texas State ahead 35-32, but the Cajuns answered with 10 straight points and never surrendered the lead after retaking it with 8:50 to play on a pair of foul shots from Devonta Walker.

Texas State still managed to get back to within three points at 44-41 on another layup from Naylor, but the Cajuns held them without a made field goal for the final 4:58 with the only points coming from the foul line.


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