The Sun Belt Conference men’s basketball regular season ended Friday, Feb. 24. To finish their playing schedule last week, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns were presented with a very special opportunity: the chance to both secure a double bye in the upcoming Sun Belt Conference Championship and become the first squad in Cajuns’ history to go undefeated at home.
To start this final home stand on Feb. 22, the Cajuns faced the 11–18 Arkansas State Red Wolves, who were themselves still jockeying for position at the bottom of the tournament bracket.
The Cajuns jumped out to an early 13-point lead off of several tough Themus Fulks buckets and outpaced the Wolves’ offense for a 41–29 first half. A Kobe Julien 3-pointer would put the game out of reach with 4:17 left to go in the contest, and the game would end 85–74.
Jordan Brown led all scorers in the game with 24 points on 58% true shooting to go along with 12 rebounds and two steals. Fulks scored 11 points on 5–9 shooting with five rebounds and three assists. Greg Williams Jr. also had a great game with 18 points, three assists and a block. The Cajuns’ bench matched the Wolves’ in scoring and outrebounded them 12–3.
The Wolves did their best to keep this one interesting, but the Cajuns’ stars’ ability to take over in scoring and playmaking wasn’t something they were able to compete with.
Then, for the final game of the season on Friday, Feb. 24, the Cajuns faced the 16–14 South Alabama Jaguars. In an effort to concoct a winning formula, the Jaguars’ staff gave their star guard Isaiah Moore the ultimate green light, and he led the game in minutes played (35) and field goal attempts (20).
Things were very close throughout, and an Owen White 3-pointer put the Jags up 29–28 going into halftime. Then, the Cajuns executed their signature style of grinding defense to perfection, leading to a 11–1 run that ate up six minutes of game time in the second half. The Cajuns would hold on to this lead for the final score, 74–64.
The Trojans’ gameplan of running a seven-man rotation worked to their detriment, as the starters outside of Moore and Owen White failed to get into much rhythm at all. Enough offensive production to justify the minutes they played. For the Cajuns, Brown again had a monster double-double performance, tallying 28 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks. Senior guard Jalen Dalcourt was instrumental in keeping the offense moving at points, going 8–8 at the free-throw line.
Ultimately, regardless of record, the Cajuns will have to punch their own ticket to the NCAA Men’s Tournament this year by first winning the SBC Tournament in Pensacola. As one of two teams that earned a double bye in the bracket, the team will first play the winner between the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks and the Georgia Southern Eagles on Saturday, March 4.
On the other side of the bracket sits the #1 seed, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. This squad also carries an undefeated home record, and was the only team to hold the Cajuns to 75 points or less in both their meetings this season. Brown, Williams and the rest of the Cajuns will have to pull out all the stops in a potential championship meeting with this bunch.