Gant’s big night leads Louisiana-Lafayette past Little Rock, 75-61

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Senior posts first 40-point game for Louisiana since Andrew Toney’s 46 vs. Auburn in 1979

LAFAYETTE – Louisiana’s JaKeenan Gant posted a double-double, scoring a career-high 45 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 75-61 victory over Little Rock in a Sun Belt Conference game on Saturday at the Cajundome.

Gant, who became the first Ragin’ Cajun to score 40 points in a game since Andrew Toney scored 46 against Auburn in 1979, equaled the 45-point effort set by legendary guard Dwight “Bo” Lamar in 1972 for the 11th-best scoring performance in school history for Louisiana (10-5, 1-1 SBC).

The 6-foot-8 senior finished 15-for-21 from the floor, 11-for-11 from the free throw line and drained 4 of 5 attempts from behind the 3-point line as snapped a rare, two-game losing streak at home. Little Rock (5-10, 0-2 SBC), which handed Louisiana its lone home loss last season, was led by Rayjon Tucker’s career-high 36 points.

Louisiana, which was without head coach Bob Marlin who was dealing with a family health matter, never trailed after Jeremy Hayes’ three-point play gave the Ragin’ Cajuns a 9-8 lead with 14:31 remaining in the first half. Hayes bucket was part of a 14-0 run for Louisiana that began was a bucket by Marcus Stroman with 15:35 left in the first half and capped by two free throws by Gant at the 11:19 mark.

The Trojans cut the lead to 27-26 on a 3-pointer by freshman Markquis Nowell with 4:37 left in the first half, but Gant scored the game’s next eight points with a 3-pointer, three-point play and two free throws for a 35-26 lead.

Nowell, who finished with 14 points, got Little Rock as close as 56-47 with a free throw with 9:33 remaining in the game. But five straight points by Gant – beginning with a 3-pointer – pushed Louisiana’s lead back to double digits with his final 3-pointer of the night at the 1:08 mark giving the Ragin’ Cajuns their biggest lead of the game, 75-59.

Cedric Russell broke out of a 6-for-24 slump by adding a season-high 11 points as Louisiana finished 24-for-56 (43 percent) from the floor, 10-for-27 (37 percent) from behind the arc and 17-for-21 (81 percent) from the free throw line.

After being outrebounded, 46-26, against Arkansas State in its SBC opener on Thursday, Louisiana held a 31-29 advantage on the glass who forcing a season-high tying 23 turnovers.

Louisiana will play its next three games on the road beginning on Thursday (Jan. 10) at league rival Georgia State (11-4, 2-0 SBC) in Atlanta. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT and will be streamed live on ESPN+.

NOTES
• The 45 points by JaKeenan Gant were the most scored by a Ragin’ Cajun since Dwight “Bo” Lamar (45) against West Texas A&M on Jan. 15, 1972.
• Gant posted career-highs in field goals made (15), FG attempts (21) and tied a career-mark in 3-pointers made (4).
• Gant became the first Ragin’ Cajun since Andrew Toney scored 46 points against Auburn on Dec. 22, 1979.
• Gant, who was 11-for-11 from the free throw line, became the fourth player in school history to go perfect from the line joining Elvin Ivory (14-14, vs. Louisiana Tech, 2/2/67), Michael Allen (13-13, vs. Arkansas State, 1/13/94) and Tiras Wade (12-12, vs. Denver, 3/8/05) as Ragin’ Cajuns who were perfect with 10 or more made free throws.

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