NEW ORLEANS – Jay Wright scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns made 21 of 22 free throws in the final 5:44 to defeat Little Rock, 78-71, in the first round of the 2017 Sun Belt Conference Men’s Basketball Championship on Wednesday at Lakefront Arena.
Justin Miller added 20 points, making his first seven shots of the game, while Bryce Washington added 12 points and Johnathan Stove 11 as No. 7-seeded Louisiana (21-11) won its seventh straight game and advanced to face No. 2-seeded Georgia State in the quarterfinals on Friday at 5 p.m. Little Rock, the defending SBC regular-season and tournament champion, ended its season at 15-17 overall.
Louisiana trailed 31-30 at halftime before Miller hit a pair of free throws with 19:43 remaining that gave the Ragin’ Cajuns the lead for good. Miller, who finished 7-for-9 in the game, sank a 3-pointer that gave Louisiana a 54-45 lead with 10:22 remaining before the Cajuns went nearly seven minutes without a bucket until Frank Bartley hit a jumper with 2:29 remaining for a 63-57 lead.
The Ragin’ Cajuns missed six straight field goal attempts during the nearly seven-minute span, but never let Little Rock get closer than four the rest of the night. Wright, who recorded his 12-for-13 performance from the free throw line this season, sank a pair of free throws with 5:44 remaining that gave Louisiana a 57-51 lead.
That began a stretch of 15 straight made free throws for Louisiana, which went 27-for-31 (87.1 percent) from the free throw line in the second half and 32-for-38 (84.2 percent) for the game.
The Ragin’ Cajuns built an 11-6 lead in the first half as Washington scored on a layup with 12:15 remaining. Little Rock would respond by taking a 14-13 lead on a dunk by Jalen Jackson with 8:47 left before taking its biggest lead of the game – 31-28 – on a jumper by Deondre Burns with 1:36 remaining.
Marcus Johnson, Jr., led Little Rock with 14 points with Kemy Osse adding 13. The Trojans finished 28-for-59 (47.5 percent) from the floor while going 3-for-12 (.250) from behind the 3-point line.
Discount Tickets Available for SBC Basketball Quarterfinals
The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics Department is offering a discount ticket package for fans who are planning to attend both the women’s basketball and men’s basketball Sun Belt Conference Tournament quarterfinal games at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
A two-session discount of $22 will include a ticket to Thursday’s 2 p.m. women’s quarterfinal vs. Texas State and Friday’s 5 p.m. men’s quarterfinal vs. Georgia State.
Tickets can be purchased in-person at the Cajundome Box Office during business hours from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., by calling (337) 265-2357 or visiting on-line at www.RaginCajuns.com/tickets.
All tickets are general admission.
Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets through the Cajundome Box Office. Each ticket sold through the Cajundome Box Office directly benefits Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics.
All-session booklets ($100 for every game of both the men’s and women’s tournament), Ragin’ Cajuns packs ($50 for every Ragin’ Cajuns men’s and women’s session throughout the entire tournament) and individual game tickets ($14 per game) also remain on sale online and at the Cajundome.