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Louisiana Lafayette vs. Arkansas Little Rock: Game recap, observations, and more from the Sun Belt’s nationally televised showcase

It was a statement win for Louisiana Lafayette

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana-Lafayette at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

A rare nationally televised Sun Belt game featured the defending conference champion Arkansas Little Rock and one of the upstart teams of the 2016-17 season in Louisiana Lafayette. The much-anticipated showdown between two of the league’s powers was never really close, as the Ragin’ Cajuns ran away with a 69-52 victory.

BYU transfer and leading scorer Frank Bartley scored five points for Louisiana in a 28-second span, and Bryce Washington went coast-to-coast for a right-hand flush to give Louisiana a 9-7 lead at the first TV timeout.

Bartley hit another three at just under the 10-minute mark to give Louisiana a 19-11 lead. The Ragin’ Cajuns would go on to outscore the Trojans 25-11 the remainder of the half, with a Washington put-back right before the buzzer as the exclamation point of a blistering half of offensive efficiency for Louisiana.

All five starters scored at least six points and the Ragin’ Cajuns shot 59 percent (19-32) and Louisiana hit six threes in the first half.

Even more impressive was the performance on the defensive end for Louisiana, which allowed only eight field goals in the half and forced seven turnovers.

Washington’s baseline drive and jam gave the Ragin’ Cajuns their largest lead of the game at 48-22 at the 17:01 mark of the second half, quickly drowning out the hometown crowd wanting to see a comeback from their Trojans.

Little Rock could not string together any runs, drawing no closer than 15 points and shooting just 33 percent from the floor for the game.

Outside of Kenny Osse’s 6-10 shooting performance, the nine other Trojans who appeared in the game shot 13-49 (27 percent).

The defensive job done by Marlin’s bunch was what stood out, particularly on the road for a team that ranked 10th in the conference, allowing 72 points coming into Monday’s outing. The Ragin’ Cajuns allowed only 16 points in the paint while doing a good job closing out on Little Rock’s outside shooters from the perimeter, only allowing six threes on 19 attempts.

Freshman Justin Miller led a quartet of Ragin’ Cajuns in double figures with 15 points. Bartley and Washington shot a collective 12-15 from the field and scored 14 and 13 points respectively. Washington added 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the year, tying him with Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan for the lead nationally. Osse was the lone Trojan in double figures with 15 points.

Louisiana will go home to Lafayette for the next three games in Sun Belt play, hosting ULM on Saturday, while Little Rock starts a two-game road trip, traveling to Appalachian State on Saturday.

Observations

  1. Miller looks and plays the part: At 6’7, 251 pounds, the big man from Louisville is nimble and knows how to get to the basket and finish in traffic. The lefty had come into the game shooting 10-27 (37 percent) from beyond the arc, but misfired on all four attempts on Tuesday. He has scored in double figures in five of his last six games for Louisiana and will be relied upon to keep producing in his freshman campaign.
  2. Louisiana’s rotation is short but sweet: With Washington, Jay Wright, and Johnathan Stove all returning starters from a year ago, Bartley and freshman Jordan Miller have given Marlin a formidable starting five. All five are capable scoring options and played over 30 minutes in this game with the exception of Miller, who fouled out after 28 minutes and a game-high 15 points.
  3. Little Rock needs to get Marcus Johnson Jr. back on track: The senior guard came into the game shooting 5-25 from the field over his last three games, after a 29-point night against Central Arkansas before that. It didn’t get much better Monday night. Johnson went 3-15 and scored nine points, and was not able to shake loose against a tame Louisiana backcourt.