Men's hoops falls to ULL
A tough pill to swallow.
That’s the phrase used to describe the Arkansas State Red Wolves 77-76 loss to the ULL Ragin Cajun’s on senior night at the Convocation Center.
On a night in which five seniors were honored for their athletic performance to the university, the Red Wolves gave up an 8-0 run to end the ballgame, sending A-State to next week’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament as the fourth seed overall, behind Georgia State, Western Kentucky and Louisiana-Lafayette.
“We didn’t make the plays down the stretch we needed to in order to win,” said A-State Head Coach John Brady. “We played well enough to win the game and it’s disappointing we weren’t able to do it. UL-Lafayette made the plays down the stretch like a winning team should.”
The game resembled a back and forth affair between both schools in the first half, with A-State holding the largest lead of the first half at seven points on two separate occasions.
The Red Wolves led 38-31 with 55 seconds to play in the first half and ULL closed the half on a 4-0 run to pull within 38-35 at the halfway point.
The second half featured more of the same and ULL raced out on an 8-2 run to claim a 43-40 lead with 17:28 left to play. But in the blink of an eye, back-to-back four point plays by both senior guard Ed Townsel and junior guard Rakeem Dickerson put the Red Wolves 50-43.
From there on, A-State pulled their lead up to 11 points after a successful jumper by senior forward Kendrick Washington with 12:28 remaining.
The Red Wolves kept the lead until a successful three-point field goal by sophomore Shawn Long knotted the game at 60 with 9:44 remaining.
The Red Wolves forged ahead once again late and built their lead to 76-69 after a beautiful three-point play by senior guard Melvin Johnson III, just three of his game high 28 points.
From there, it was Elfrid Payton time.
Facing a seven point deficit with 1:51 to play, junior guard Payton closed the game on a personal 8-0 run, capping the run off with the go-ahead three point basket with 14 seconds remaining to set the final margin.
A-State had one final chance to score the potential game-winning shot, but Dickerson’s layup fell short, giving ULL (20-11, 11-7 SBC) their first 20-win season since the 2002-03 campaign.
The Red Wolves shot 43.9 percent for the game (25-57) and nailed 52.9 percent of their three-point shots (9-17).
But their significant struggle in the second half came at the charity stripe, where A-State shot only 57 percent (8-14). Aside from Johnson III’s 28 points and Townsel’s 23, no other Red Wolves reached double figures in scoring.
For ULL, the Ragin Cajun’s were paced by Shawn Long’s team leading 25 points and 11 rebounds.
Payton finished with 17 on the night, despite a poor shooting performance in the first half.
The Ragin Cajun’s outrebounded the Red Wolves 40-35 and outscored A-State both in points in the paint and in second chance points.
The loss however, did not diminish Brady’s spirit when it came to next week’s conference tournament.
“I’m still convinced our team is good enough to win the conference tournament,” Brady stated.
The Red Wolves get their first crack at the conference tournament at 6 p.m. Friday when they take on the first round winner of No. 5 UALR-No. 8 Troy.
The game will be televised on the Sun Belt Network.
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