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Men's Basketball: Cajuns Fall In Heartbreaking 71-68 Decision To UTA In SBC Semifinals

NEW ORLEANS – Kaelon Wilson sank a pair of free throws with 1:19 remaining and added a key offensive rebound in the final seconds as No. 4-seeded UT Arlington claimed a 71-68 victory over the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns in the Sun Belt Conference Men's Basketball Championship semifinals on Saturday at Lakefront Arena.
Erick Neal scored 18 points to lead four players in double figures for UTA (21-12), the Preseason SBC favorite which advanced to face the winner of Georgia State or Georgia Southern on Sunday at 1 p.m. Louisiana, which will await its postseason destination, fell to 27-6 overall.
Wilson, who finished with 17 points for UTA, began an 11-4 run with 5:23 remaining when his 3-point attempt bounced twice off the rim and fell through, cutting Louisiana's lead to 64-63. Neal, who scored 37 points in Friday's win over Appalachian State, gave UTA a 65-64 lead with a running one-hander in the lane before Nathan Hawkins scored on a bucket for a 67-64 lead with 3:13 remaining.
Bryce Washington rebounded a missed jumper by Frank Bartley and scored with 2:50 remaining for Louisiana before Bartley sank a pair of free throws that gave the Ragin' Cajuns a 68-67 lead at the 1:54 mark.
On UTA's ensuing possession, Kevin Hervey rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by Neal before his jumper was rebounded by Wilson, who drew the fifth foul on Marcus Stroman with 1:19 remaining.
Wilson added another offensive rebound after picking up a missed 3-pointer by Neal with 20 seconds remaining and Hervey added a pair of free throws for a 71-68 lead with 10.9 seconds remaining.
Louisiana had two chances to send the game to overtime on its final possession, but Cedric Russell missed a heavily-guarded attempt before Washington grabbed the offensive rebound, dribbled out and his 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short.
The Ragin' Cajuns opens the game on a 9-2 run that was capped by a pair of free throws by Bartley with 16:34 remaining in the first half. UTA responded with an 11-1 run to take a 15-10 lead and would build its lead to 36-28 on a free throw by Neal with 1:55 remaining in the first half.
Justin Miller, who scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half, helped Louisiana erase the deficit as his jumper with 10:26 remaining gave the Ragin' Cajuns a 55-54 lead. After both teams traded buckets, Miller sparked a 7-0 run for the Ragin' Cajuns with a three-point play and bucket that would give Louisiana a 62-60 lead.
Stroman, who scored nine points and dished out seven assists, gave Louisiana a 64-60 lead with 5:47 left before Wilson's 3-pointer began UTA's final run.
Hervey came off the bench to score 14 points and grab 11 rebounds for UTA with Johnny Hamilton adding 12 points and eight boards. Bartley led Louisiana with 19 points while Miller finished with 14 points and four rebounds. Washington, playing in his hometown, finished with 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his 38th career double-double while Malik Marquetti added 11 points.

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