In its Sun Belt Conference opener and the first of two back-to-back games against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (7-1, 1-0 Sun Belt), Texas State men's basketball (6-4 overall, 0-1 Sun Belt) lost 83-77 to the Ragin' Cajuns due to a last-second shot.
In both teams' first overtime game of the season, the teams traded periods of dominance throughout, but the key shortcoming for the Bobcats was their failure to score when deep into the shot clock later in the game.
The first half began as a mostly back-and-forth affair, with both teams keeping it even and turning the ball over. With the score tied at 10-10 at the 14:13 mark, Texas State had committed four turnovers and Louisiana had five. The Bobcats then went on a 7-0 scoring run to create a 17-10 lead with 11:15 left in the half.
Texas State’s leading scorer on the season, junior guard Mason Harrell, was not in the starting lineup and came onto the court at the end of the scoring run. The Bobcats would keep the Cajuns at arm’s length for the rest of the first half, never losing their lead and headed into the break on top 36-33.
In the first half, the Bobcats shot 57.1% from the field (16-28, 4-7 three-pointers). 22 of Texas State’s 36 points came from inside the paint, likely due to the absence of Louisiana senior forward Dou Gueye, who averages a double-double with 10.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, due to COVID-19 protocol.
The Bobcats were carried in the first half by a big scoring rush from senior forward Isiah Small (16 points, 7-18, 2-2 three-pointers), while Louisiana relied on the long-range scoring of sophomore guard Devin Butts (12 points, 4-7, 4-6 three-pointers). Butts’ contribution would lessen in the second half, but his early scoring burst is what kept the game from getting away from the Cajuns in the first half.
Louisiana returned from the locker room a much more prolific team, scoring seven unanswered points to grab the lead 40-36 with 17:56 left. The teams then traded the lead until the 13:16 mark, where the Bobcats went on a 13-1 scoring run until another Butts three-pointer ended the run at the 9:22 mark to make it 57-50 in favor of the Bobcats.
Texas State’s lead shrank as the repeated blocks against, traveling calls, and missed shots by the Bobcats allowed the Cajuns to get back into the game with an 11-0 run. A two-pointer from senior guard Shelby Adams ended the run and tied the game up at 65-65 with 2:55 left.
Louisiana’s rash of points seemed to stem from Small’s exit from the game due to an apparent injury to one of his knees. Small collided knee-to-knee with junior forward Theo Akwuba on a scoring attempt inside, which seemed to cause him serious pain. Small did return at the 4:15 mark, albeit with a hobble for the rest of the game. Small would reassert his presence in the game with a dunk after a Cajun turnover to level the game at 67-67 with 2:15 left.
Louisiana outscored the Bobcats 5-2 in the final two minutes of the game, forcing the Bobcats to foul to keep their hopes alive. Down 72-69 with 17 seconds left, Adams found himself with an open shot on the left-wing and drained a three to tie the game up with 1.5 seconds left in the contest, sending the game to overtime. Adams was 2-9 from three on the season before his clutch shot.
In overtime, the Cajuns came out just as hot as they did in the first half with a three from Butts and two free throws by Russell before the Bobcats could respond with another Small dunk to trail 77-74 with 3:57 left.
A layup by Small and a lone free throw by Harrell were the final Bobcats’ points for the rest of the game. Louisiana blocked what shots Texas State did not outright miss and made its free throws to close out the game 83-77.
Butts finished the game with 22 points (7-16, 6-12 three-pointers). He was followed by sophomore guard Mylik Wilson with 21 points (9-14) 11 rebounds, three blocks and four steals. Wilson’s defensive efforts locked up the victory in the latter half of the game. Senior guard Cedric Russell scored 14 points (3-11) and went 7-8 from the free-throw line. Russell’s accuracy from the charity stripe in overtime was another reason for the gap between the two teams.
The two teams will meet again at 4 p.m. on Jan. 2 at the Cajundome in their second game of the weekend. The game will be streamable on ESPN+.