Cajuns overcome sluggish second half to earn 77-63 win at Little Rock

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – JaKeenan Gant and Bryce Washington each recorded double-doubles and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball team overcame a sluggish second half to earn a 77-63 win over Little Rock in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams on Friday at Jack Stephens Center.

Gant scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed 10 boards while Washington posted his 31st career double-double with 15 points and a season-high 19 rebounds as Louisiana (11-3, 1-0 SBC) won its SBC opener for the first time since an 83-79 overtime victory over Little Rock (3-11, 0-1 SBC) on Dec. 30, 2014.

The Ragin’ Cajuns, who never trailed in the contest and led by as many as 23 points in the first half, built a 42-24 lead at halftime before allowing Little Rock to shoot 50 percent (16-for-32) from the floor in the second half.

“We were a little disappointed with our effort in the second half,” head coach Bob Marlin said. “We didn’t get off to a great start and we didn’t finish. We made some great passes but didn’t finish at the basket. Rebounding was the difference in this game.”

Washington, who increased his scoring total to 1,109 points and moved past Cedric Hill into 35th-place on the Ragin’ Cajuns career scoring list, grabbed 11 rebounds in the first half before Louisiana finished with a 45-26 advantage on the glass.

Bartley and Gant combined for 23 points in the first half for Louisiana on 7 of 13 shooting with the Ragin’ Cajuns scoring on three straight three-point plays. Johnathan Stove converted on two straight three-point plays to push Louisiana’s lead to 26-8 with 8:32 remaining in the first half before Bartley added a three-point play for a 29-10 lead at the 7:32 mark.

“In the half, our guards had a couple of really good plays,” Marlin said. “Johnathan (Stove) and Frank (Bartley) both drove the ball and made the traditional three-point plays, and that is what pushed us out to an early lead.”

Washington converted on a three-point play for a 55-34 lead with 14:10 remaining in the game before the Ragin’ Cajuns would go nearly eight minutes without a bucket before a three-pointer by Cedric Russell gave Louisiana a 64-49 lead with 6:19 left.

Bartley added 16 points for Louisiana with Stove adding eight points off the bench and Malik Marquetti seven. Marcus Stroman dished out five assists for the Ragin’ Cajuns, who finished 26-for-57 (45.6 percent) from the floor and was 20-for-24 from the free throw line.

Anthony Black scored 12 of his team-high 14 points in the second half for Little Rock and Andre Jones adding 13. Ben Marcus scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Trojans.

Louisiana will return to action on Sunday when it faces Arkansas State (6-8, 1-0 SBC), a 75-64 winner over ULM, in a 3:30 p.m. contest at First National Bank Arena.

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