The UL Ragin’ Cajuns withstood a Texas State 3-pointer just before the end of regulation to win their Sun Belt Conference opener with an 83-77 overtime win over the Bobcats on Friday at the Cajundome.
The two teams will meet again at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Cajundome to wrap up the opening weekend series.
Devin Butts gave the Cajuns the lead for good with his sixth 3-pointer of the game just 16 seconds into the overtime session.
Theo Akwuba got a big putback and a critical blocked shot in the final minute to complement four Cedric Russell free throws in overtime to secure the win for the Cajuns (now 7-1, 1-0).
Butts led the Cajuns with 22 points behind 6-of-12 shooting from 3-point land, along with two rebounds.
Mylik Wilson was his normal productive force with 21 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and four steals.
Russell added 14 points and four rebounds.
Akwuba settled for 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists and six blocked shots.
The Cajuns finished with 18 turnovers compared to 20 for Texas State.
All signs pointed toward a Cajuns’ win in regulation late. With the Cajuns clinging to a 70-69 lead after Wilson’s putback with 56.3 seconds left, UL’s defense frustrated Texas State’s ensuing possession to the point where the Bobcats called timeout with two seconds left on the shot clock.
Mason Harrell did get off a 3-pointer but it was off the mark. Cedric Russell was then fouled at 17.1 and made both free throws for a 72-69 lead.
Incredibly, Shelby Adams nailed a deep 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to force overtime.
A seesaw battle turned into a Texas State 10-point lead midway through the second half. After Wilson’s baseline jumper gave UL a 46-44 lead at 14:03, the Bobcats responded with a 13-1 run.
It began with a Caleb Asberry 3-pointer and was bolstered by a four-point play from Harrell.
UL finally ended it with the fifth three-pointer of the night from Butts with 9:09 left to narrow Texas State’s lead to 57-50.
Then it became UL’s turn for a big run – culminating a 14-2 stretch with an 11-0 run to take a 65-63 lead with 4:15 left.
Newcomer Ty Harper sparked the big run with a 3-pointers at 5:54 and then a layup for the lead.
That sandwiched back-to-back, three-point plays by Butts and Wilson to get 14 points on four trips to quickly evaporate the Bobcats’ double-digit lead.
The first half was filled with many of the same issues UL’s experienced for most of the season … except for the hot shooting of Butts.
As a team, the Cajuns were 5-for-12 at the break beyond the arc, but only 1-for-6 without Butts’ hot shooting.
UL had 10 turnovers at the break and rebounding was even at 13 apiece.
Dou Gueye wasn’t available for the game due to COVID-19 protocols. Despite missing Gueye, UL outrebounded Texas State 37-32.
He was replaced in the starting lineup by Jacobi Gordon, who pitched in six points and a rebound in the first half.
On the defensive end, Texas State outscored UL 22-8 in the paint and 12-7 off turnovers in the first half. As a result, the Bobcats shot 57.1 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from 3-point land in the first half.
Isiah Small led the Bobcats with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field.
Texas State also had eight points, two rebounds and two steals from Asberry in the first half.