Jan 17, 2013 11:54 PM by UL Sports Information
Western Kentucky used a 23-2 run over a 10- minute span centered around halftime to take control of a tight game and pull away for a 72-49 victory over Louisiana on Thursday night in front of a crowd of 4,914 in E.A. Diddle Arena.
The 23-point loss was the largest of the season for the Cajuns and dropped Louisiana to 7-13 on the year and 3-6 in Sun Belt play. The Ragin' Cajuns are just 1-10 on the road this year. WKU improves to 11-8 overall and 5-3 in league play.
The Cajuns played the game without starting guard Bryant Mbamalu (14.0 ppg), who has now missed the last two games with a thumb injury suffered against South Alabama last Thursday night.
"We just didn't make our shots tonight," Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin said. "We got the looks like we did the other night, but the shots we made in beating Arkansas State just didn't fall. That's where we missed a player like Bryant Mbamalu, who has the ability to help carry you when the freshmen can't make a shot.
"I was disappointed that we gave up some easy shots and let them get to the basket. Rebounding has been an issue all season, but even then, we didn't rebound the way that we are capable of doing and that set Western up to get a couple of easy baskets.
"Despite the problems we were having, we had the lead late in the half and then went cold. When we did, Western Kentucky really took advantage of the opportunity," Marlin added.
Payton led the Cajuns with 14 points on six-for-11 shooting, with three assists and a pair of steals.
Long, who entered the game ranked fourth nationally in double-doubles, finished the game with 11 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks for his 11th double-double of the season. He struggled to find his shooting touch, going four-for-15 from the field.
"Shawn had some good looks offensively that he would usually make, but they just didn't fall for him," Marlin said.
Western Kentucky had four players in double figures, led by Brandon Harris with 16 points. T.J. Price added 13 points and George Fant with Teeng Akol coming off the bench to post a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The offensive struggles for the Cajuns were caused by an effective zone defense and cold shooting. Despite getting good shots, Louisiana shot a season-low .288 from the field, making 17 of its 59 field goal attempts. The Cajuns were six-for-20 from three-point and nine-for-16 from the line (.563).
After shooting .364 in the first half (12-33), the Hilltoppers bounced back to shoot .500 in the second stanza (12-24) and .421 for the game (24-57). WKU continually worked the ball into the lane, scoring 17 of their 24 field goals in the paint to own a 34-20 lead in point in the paint. WKU had a 49-31 rebounding advantage, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds to own a 19-3 edge in second chance points.
The first half was tight for the first 15 minutes, featuring six ties and a pair of lead changes.
Louisiana took its biggest lead of the half, 19-16 with 6:57 on an Alan-Michael Thompson trey.
T.J. Price answered with a trey for WKU to tie the game at 19-19 before Payton gave UL its final lead of the half on a breakaway dunk off a steal and assist by Shepherd with 5:15 left.
The Cajuns would go cold from there, missing their final seven shots of the halftime. WKU found the hot hand, making six of its final eight shots to open up a 32-21 halftime lead.
The cold spell would carry over into the second half as the Hilltoppers scored 10 of the first 12 points to open up a 42-23 advantage with 16:12 left in the game. The deficit would grow to as many as 25 (55-30, 8:25) and the Cajuns could come no closer than 17 down the stretch (60-43, 5:39).
Louisiana continues their Midwest road swing on Saturday, playing a 5:30 p.m. contest at Middle Tennessee before returning home to host FIU next Thursday night (Jan. 24) in the Cajundome.