Jan 19, 2013 10:25 PM by UL Sports Information
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Kerry Hammonds scored 27 points, making six of Middle Tennessee's 10 three-pointers as the Ragin' Cajuns dropped a 82-60 decision to the Blue Raiders on Saturday evening in the Murphy Center.
The loss moves Louisiana to 7-14 on the year and 3-7 in the Sun Belt west division while Middle Tennessee, who is in first place in the east division, improved to 16-4 overall and 8-1 in league play.
"This game had an identical flow as the Western Kentucky game did on Thursday," head coach Bob Marlin said. "We played tight for the first 10 minutes before they went on a run and opened up a lead that we couldn't come back from.
"Our offense was pretty good tonight, but when you are as young and inexperienced as we are and playing against the most-experienced team in the lead, there isn't a whole lot of margin for errors. We were down by five and took Elfrid (Payton) out for a minute and we didn't defend an inbounds play properly that we had worked on all week, missed a couple of free throws, allowed a dunk and then turned the ball over. Just like that, we were down 10."
"They shot the ball great from three-point tonight, which is something that they don't normally do, and it got their crowd into the game.
"We didn't do a very good job boxing out tonight. We aren't a big team so we need to do a great job putting a body on somebody, but tonight, we mixed some box outs and
After trailing by as many as 23 in the first half (41-18, 0:35), the Cajuns battled back to close to within 57-43, on an Alan-Michael Thompson three-pointer with 12:40 left.
But like they did in the first half, Middle Tennessee went on a 19-2 run over the next four minutes to take control of the game, extending the lead to 74-45 with 8:51 remaining.
Shawn Long led Louisiana with 21 points and 13 rebounds. It was his 12th double-double of the year and seventh game of 20 points or more. Long, the nation's top rebounding freshman this year with a 10.2 average, has grabbed 43 rebounds over his last three games.
Elfrid Payton added 14 points on six-for-eight shooting but played just 30 minutes because of leg cramps.
Hammonds was the offensive standout for the Blue Raiders, going 10-for-11 from the field, including six-for-seven from three-point. He scored 17 points in the first half and did not play the final eight minutes of the game.
Raymond Cintron was the only other Blue Raider in double figures, finishing with 12 points on four-for-eight shooting from three-point. Shawn Jones led MTSU with 10 rebounds.
With Hammonds leading the way, Middle Tennessee went 10-for-23 from three-point (.435) while the Cajuns could manage just five treys in 19 attempts (.263).
"Hammonds really had a great night," Marlin said. "Middle did a nice job of getting him the ball in a position to score and he made the shots."
The first 10 minutes of the contest featured a tight contest.
Payton hit a basket in the lane to bring close UL to within 16-13 with 10:57 left but the Blue Raiders would pull away, scoring seven straight points and 19 of the next 21 to open up 35-15 lead with 2:43 left.
The lead would grow to 41-18 before Long connected on a 24-footer at the buzzer to give Middle Tennessee a 41-21 halftime lead.
The Blue Raiders forced the Cajuns into nine first half turnovers and turned those miscues into a 14-0 lead in points off turnovers.
"It will be good to get back to the Cajundome this week," Marlin said. "Our younger guys have played pretty well at home so far so it is good that we will finish the year with a lot of road games."
The Cajuns return home this week to host FIU on Thursday, Jan. 24 beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Cajundome. It begins a stretch that will see Louisiana play six of eight at home