After having the best non-conference record in 26 years
- 14 Mar, 2017
After having the best non-conference record in 26 years at 10-4, the Cajuns lost the Sun Belt conference opener at Jonesboro by a score of 74-71 on New Year's Eve. Despite shooting only 40% from the floor and giving up 56% we managed to out rebound ASU by 10 to give ourselves a chance to tie the game with possession of the ball down three for the final shot. The team loaded the bus New Year's Day and headed to Little Rock for an ESPN game Monday night versus the defending SBC regular season and tournament champions. We got off to a great start offensively shooting 59% from the floor in the first half for a 44-22 lead. The second half was more of the same as we shot 57% for the game and limited Little Rock to 32%. Anytime you can shoot 10% points better than your opponent your team should be in position to win a game and 25% is almost a sure sign of victory.
After evening our record at 1-1 and playing one of our best games of the year, we had a bye before playing in-state rival ULM at the Cajundome on Saturday. In a game where both team shot less than 40% from the floor we managed to have an advantage at the free-throw line to secure a 69-60 victory.
Playing the second game of our three game homestand vs Georgia Southern, we played well in the 1st half in front of a great Cajundome crowd. We were leading in the middle of the 2nd half when the Eagles put it all together. Their guards – Tookie Brown and Ike Smith were the 1st and 2nd leading scorers in the SBC and played well as they scored a major upset in a 76-81 Win. Losing for the first time did not sit well with our team – especially the five freshmen. We were shell shocked and turned one loss into two. Georgia State came out strong offensively on the way to 53 first half points and a convincing 101-86 win.
After losing two consecutive games for the first time in two months, we had a strong performance in a 79-73 win at Texas State. It Marked our third win in four tries at Strahan Coliseum and ended our SBC record at 3-3.
After traveling to Arlington and practicing on Sunday night, we played our worst game of the year in a loss to UT Arlington. The game was close until late in the first half, but the SBC regular season champions were at their best on this night. Giving up 57% from the floor and making 33 % of your field goals is not a recipe for success in our game.
The offense was much improved at home, shooting 62% from the floor in an 88-80 win over Little Rock. Two days later we gave up 50% from the floor for the third time in a row and our offense was not up to the task shooting 43% in a loss to Arkansas State. The win was the first in 10 years for the red wolves at the Cajundome.
Headed back on the road to the state of Georgia, we lost Saturday afternoon to Georgia State by score of 85-82. After trailing at the half we mounted a big comeback to cut a double figure lead to 1 and had possession for the last shot. We executed a set play against man or zone and got the ball to Bryce on the block but the shot was unsuccessful and they made free throws for the final margin. Monday’s game at Georgia Southern was another close one that we lost 74-70 to the Eagles. We played much better defensively this time against Georgia Southern but were unable to make the place needed down the stretch. It was disappointing for Jay Wright to lose with such a fan base coming over from Effingham County high school.
After losing six of eight games we needed to get back to the friendly confines of the Cajundome and play better defense. The Troy game was a tough one as they were playing with confidence. Our defense failed us again as we gave up 54% from the floor and a season high 40 or 50 free throws to the Trojans. I was actually ejected early in the second half over a call and left the game.
We rebounded on Monday night vs South Alabama in a big way scoring an 87-61 victory over the Jaguars. We limited South to 34% from the floor and one of 15 from three-point range. It was a victory we needed to save our season.
Next up was a game at Monroe on Saturday afternoon. In a bizarre game where we did not play particularly well giving up 63% from the floor (a season high), we made a furious rally the last two minutes of the game to secure an 85-84 victory on Johnathan Stove‘s half-court shot at the buzzer. It was the play of the day on ESPN.
After a good week of practice, we headed for the Carolinas. First up was coastal Carolina where we played a tight game throughout and won by a score of 79-77. After spending the night at Myrtle Beach, we headed across the Carolinas and checked into our hotel at Boone Sunday night. The guys came out and led from wire to wire and secured a 77-62 victory over the mountaineers to make us 3-0 all time in Boone.
Riding a four game winning streak and playing with confidence we returned to the Cajundome to take on Texas state. In one of the most exciting games of the year, we rallied from eight points down with a couple minutes left to force overtime and win 94-84 behind Jay Wright’s incredible performance. Jay scored 14 points in the last two minutes of regulation and first two minutes of overtime. It was a four minute window our fans will never forget.
Riding the emotion of that game Jay Wright as our only senior played his final home game versus Texas Arlington with something to prove. The tables were reversed this time we shot 47% from the floor 45% from three and were able to hold the Mavericks to 46% from the floor and secured an exciting 83-81 victory over the Sun Belt conference regular season champion.
The Sun Belt conference tournament was next and we were coming in riding the confidence of a six game winning streak. We opened play against Little Rock and won 78-71 to advance to the quarterfinals Friday night against Georgia state. After falling behind in the first half against the Panthers, we were unable to mount a comeback this time and lost by a final score 86-76.
After having Jay Wright suffer a leg injury versus Little Rock in the opener of the Sunbelt tournament we decided to decline postseason play and focus on rest and getting our guys back in the classroom as soon as possible. The season ended with a seven game winning streak marking the third time in a row we had won seven consecutive conference games. We also finished the season with our first winning road record in 17 years and our best four year overall record in 32 years.