After their opening week wins over the Centenary Gentlemen and the Harvard Crimson, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball program finished their run in the Asheville Championship on Sunday, Nov. 13 facing the East Tennessee State Bucs before returning to the Cajundome for a meeting with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs on Thursday, Nov. 17. Both teams had opened their respective seasons with solid wins over the Elon Phoenix and the Mississippi College Choctaws respectively.
The first game opened with a flurry of scoring for the Cajuns. The first five minutes featured a 12–5 run, and the first 10 minutes closed with a Joe Charles three-pointer to make it 21–10. Jumpers were the name of the game in this matchup.
The Cajuns scored just 26 points in the paint all game to the Bucs’ 44, but would maintain a sizable lead by making shots that the Bucs could not, most notably those of the three-point variety. The Cajuns went 10–21 from three for a 47.6% rate from deep, while the Bucs sank 3–16 for a dismal 18.8%.
For scoring, Cajuns forward Jordan Brown led the way with 14 points on 6–10 from the field. Four other Cajuns players: Kentrell Garnett, Terence Lewis II, Greg Williams Jr. and Themus Fulks also had nine or more points.
The Bucs’ physicality and skill at getting to the free throw line helped them even the score at 55–55 with 11 minutes left in the game, but despite being outscored by 10 points in the second half, the Cajuns held on late to win 88–77.
In rebounding, the Bucs held the slight advantage over the Cajuns 38–32 and saved 11 offensive rebounds to the Cajuns’ seven. Lewis led the way for the Cajuns with nine rebounds.
Greg Williams Jr. pulled in six boards to lead all guards in the contest. The Cajuns also held a slight advantage in assists, making 14 to the Bucs’ 11. Fulks and Michael Thomas led the way in this stat.
For the game Thursday, the start was quite different. For the first five minutes, the Louisiana teams were neck-and-neck, trading scores for a 10–9 Bulldogs lead.
After that, a series of missed shots and turnovers would give the Bulldogs the upper hand, and the end of the first ten minutes would see them build a 20–15 lead. The Cajuns would hit shot after shot trying to climb back, but the Bulldogs maintained their lead, and the first quarter ended 42–35 in favor of Tech.
The Cajuns’ starters dominated the scoring in this game. To overcome a nine-point deficit in bench production, Lewis had to score 23 points off 9–11 shooting, and Garnett, Brown and Williams Jr. all poured in 16 points each.
The charity stripe was a huge aid in the Cajuns’ comeback. 22–32 for a 68.8% rate for the Cajuns against the Bulldogs’ 13–14 was a godsend.
The Cajuns pulled even with six minutes remaining in the game, and didn’t take the lead until the 36th minute of the contest. The Cajuns outscored Tech by 13 points in the second half and by six points after first tying to clutch the win, 94–88.
The Cajuns were dominant on the boards, out-rebounding the Bulldogs 35–25, and won the offensive rebounding 11–6. Lewis and Jordan led the way for all players in the game with 12 and eight rebounds respectively.
The Cajuns’ passing, especially late, helped get them into position for the win: they made 20 assists to the Bulldogs’ eight. Fulks had an impressive seven assists, and six Cajuns logged at least two.
The main takeaway of these wins should be the resiliency of the main cast. Whether they’re facing a fast-paced, run-and-gun offense or a physical, in-your-face one, the Cajuns can find the energy and heart to match up and work around the other team’s weaknesses.
Next up on Tuesday, Nov. 22 will be a drive west to Dallas for a game against the SMU Mustangs, followed by a trip to Des Moines to match up with the Drake Bulldogs.