The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball team opened their 2023-24 season with a 72-62 victory over the Youngstown State Penguins on Monday night inside the Cajundome. The win starts the season off at 1-0 for Louisiana.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Both sides started off cold to begin the season, as the first made field goal did not come until 2:28 of game time had gone by. That bucket went to the Penguins, and they began the game on a 7-2 run, leading by that score at the under 16:00 media timeout.
The next segment of the first half saw DJ Burns hit a big three for the Penguins to extend the lead to six. The teams traded buckets, but two free throws gave Youngstown State a 14-6 lead at the under 12:00 break.
With the Cajuns trailing 15-6, Kyran Ratliff got free for a big dunk to energize the Cajundome crowd. That made it 15-8 and briefly shifted momentum. However, Youngstown State responded with a quick 5-0 run. Buckets from Kobe Julien and Blake Butler got the Cajuns back within eight at 20-12 at the under 8:00 timeout.
Louisiana used that run to create some momentum. After Themus Fulks hit a layup, Joe Charles put together a 5-0 run on his own, and the lead was down to 20-19. At the under 4:00 media break, the score was 24-23 Youngstown State.
Coming out of the break, Hosana Kitenge made two free throws, giving the Cajuns their first lead of the game. Michael Thomas made a buzzer-beating jump shot to extend the lead to 35-31 at the half. Charles led Louisiana with 10 first half points.
This turned into a back-and-forth contest in the second half. Neither team gained separation before the first media timeout, and at the under 16:00 it was tied at 37. Louisiana put together an 8-0 run to take a 47-39 lead, and that lead held at the under 12:00, as the Cajuns were up 49-41.
The lead would briefly get to double digits at 51-41, but the Penguins began to make a march after that. A 6-0 run got it down to 51-47, and the teams traded points until the under 8:00 where Louisiana led 55-50.
Julien made a three to extend the lead to 58-50 out of the timeout. With the score 60-54, Louisiana got back-to-back threes to extend the lead to 66-54. The lead was down to seven at 67-60, but Fulks converted and and-one to extend it back to double digits with just over one minute to play.
Louisiana would hold on for the 72-62 season opening victory.
BIG NUMBER: 49
While some newcomers were on display, the returning trio of Themus Fulks, Kobe Julien, and Joe Charles combined for 49 points in the Cajuns’ victory.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Joe Charles
“Carencro Joe” filled up the stat sheet in the opener. He had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. He also contributed two blocks and knocked down a team-high three three-point shots.
UP NEXT: Louisiana will travel to Ohio to face Toledo as part of the MAC-SBC Challenge on Saturday, November 11th at 6:00 PM.