Ragin’ Cajuns stay the course, upend Mean Green in final seconds

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Inside game and hustle wears down North Texas in the fourth quarter

DENTON, Texas – Caira Wren’s second-chance layup with 13.8 seconds completed the comeback and delivered the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Women’s Basketball team a 60-59 victory over North Texas in the UNT Thanksgiving Tournament on Friday, November 25 at The Super Pit in Denton, Texas.

The game-winning tally capped off a career-high, 14-point effort from Wren who led the charge as the Ragin’ Cajuns (2-4) held a commanding 40-20 edge on points in the paint over the Mean Green (1-3). And, it was set up by a steal from Sherry Porter for the final portion of Louisiana’s critical 15-2 advantage in points off of turnovers.

Wren’s heroics ended the Ragin’ Cajuns’ game-long chase of the Mean Green that began back in the first quarter when a Quincy Noble three-pointer at the 7:29 mark put the hosts ahead 7-6 and triggered a 10-0 run that created space between the two teams.

Despite surrendering 25 first-quarter points and trailing by double digits early in the second quarter, Louisiana wouldn’t allow North Texas out of its sight. Nubia Benedith converted a key and-one situation at 6:08 and Tamera Johnson finished off an 8-0 run with a basket at 4:45 that trimmed the UNT lead to 32-27.

The Ragin’ Cajuns remained within striking distance after three quarters of play, at 47-40, as Wren began to assert herself with three inside baskets during the third quarter and Destiny Rice completed a crucial three-point play to lower the Mean Green lead back into single digits.

Louisiana continued to find cracks in the UNT defense as the fourth quarter progressed, with Mariah Stewart making layups on back-to-back possessions to lower the deficit to 53-48 with 6:01 left to play. Out of the final media timeout, Johnson sank two freebies to create a one-possession game (53-50).

Johnson once again made it a one-score game after coming up with the fourth offensive rebound on a Ragin’ Cajuns possession inside of 2:30 to play, scoring a layup at 2:04 to make it 56-54. The Mean Green, which seemed to have an answer for each UL advance in the contest, answered back with a three-pointer from Noble to increase their advantage to 59-54 with 1:48 showing.

The Louisiana defense had the ultimate response, though, holding UNT scoreless the rest of the way. After Benedith made two free throws at 1:20, the Ragin’ Cajuns prevented a Mean Green response as Johnson snagged a defensive rebound, then after weaving through the defense for a layup that closed the deficit to 59-58 with 42.8 seconds remaining it was Porter coming away with the steal of the game.

The Ragin’ Cajuns shot a season-best 40 percent (25-of-63) in the contest and protected the basketball, committing only six turnovers (none in fourth quarter), in snapping a four-game losing streak. With 16 offensive rebounds and 15 turnovers forced they were able to limit the Mean Green to less than 50 field goal attempts (46).

Wren added a career-high tying seven rebounds to her stat line, hauling in six offensive boards, and generated 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the second half. Benedith matched her, registering a team-high 14 points of her own on five field goal makes and three free throws.

Johnson netted a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds. She collected six points and five rebounds (three offensive boards) in the fourth quarter alone.

Lanay Wheaton provided an all-around effort of seven points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. Rice tallied seven points and joined Wheaton in creating multiple steals (with two).

Stewart supplemented the Ragin’ Cajuns inside presence in the fourth quarter, adding four points of her own to join Johnson and Wren in piling up 14 points in the paint in the decisive frame.

Porter delivered in a timely manner with her lone basket and lone steal of the night occurring in the final minute of the game.

Louisiana completes play in the UNT Thanksgiving Tournament on Sunday, November 27 facing off with Abilene Christian at 12:00 p.m. at The Super Pit in Denton, Texas. It’s the first-ever meeting between the two programs.

The contest matches up the two teams who opened play in the tournament with a win. ACU bested Montana State 66-61 in the opening game on Friday.

Fans can listen to the game in the Acadiana region on 103.3 FM The Goat and 1420 AM and worldwide on the Varsity Network. Live stats will be available at CajunStats.com.

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