Feb 1, 2013 11:00 AM by UL Sports Information
Elfrid Payton, Shawn Long and Bryant Mbamalu combined to score 65 points and the Cajuns posted their highest single-game scoring total since the 2003-04 season as Louisiana routed North Texas, 105-74, in the Cajundome.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Ragin' Cajuns (8-15) and allowed Louisiana to take sole possession of third place in the Sun Belt west division with a 4-8 record. North Texas, the unanimous choice of the league's coaches to win the west division this year, slipped to 8-15 overall and 3-9 in league play.
"We played hard tonight," Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin said. "We executed our offense well, shut down their transition opportunities and took care of the basketball. When you do that, you usually succeed.
"This was a total team effort. We really passed the ball well early in the game, found the open made some shots to get an early lead but I wasn't happy with how we finished the first half. We had a good talk at halftime and made some changes that really helped us in the second half.
"We shot the ball well. It seemed like every shot we took went in and we were getting really good shots. We ran a couple of misdirection plays that opened him up for three-pointers and he came through. Even our bench shot it well tonight," Marlin added.
Mbamalu returned to the lineup after sitting out the last four games with a thumb injury and immediately sparked the offense, scoring 11 of his 18 points in the first half. He was a little rusty from the perimeter, going two-for-eight from three-point, so he moved his shots closer to the hoop, going four-for-seven from two-point and making all four free throw attempts. It was the sixth time in his last eight games that he scored 18 points or more.
"It was good to get Bryant back," Marlin said. "I'm sure his thumb is a little sore from shooting 15 shots tonight, but he sure helped get the crowd going tonight."
The development of Payton into one of the top players in the Sun Belt continued as the 18-year old sophomore scored 24 points with nine assists, five rebounds, four steals and no turnovers. He matched his career highs by going 10-for-13 from the line to post his sixth 20-point game of the season.
Long continued his stellar freshman campaign, scoring 23 points with 13 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the year and ninth 20-point game. He went into the game leading all freshmen nationally in rebounding this year with a 10.4 average and improved on that by posting his sixth straight double-double and sixth consecutive game of 13 or more rebounds.
Jordan Williams led North Texas with 31 points, including 18 in the first half. Alzee Williams added 14 points and Roger Franklin had 10. Tony Mitchell, the 2012 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and the 2012-13 preseason player of the year, was plagued by foul trouble in the second half, scoring just seven points with five rebounds.
"Elridge Moore did a nice job of slowing Mitchell down, and the foul trouble certainly helped" Marlin said. "He's a pretty good defender and he executed our game plan well."
After North Texas rallied from a 17-point first half deficit to close to within 47-43 with 18:28 left, the Cajuns ran off eight straight points to open up a 55-43 lead with 17:03 remaining.
The game remained in doubt for the next eight minutes. Williams scored four straight points for the Mean Green to make it a 71-61 game (9:14) but UNT would not score for the next 4:34 allowing Louisiana to run off 18 straight points to take control, 89-61 with 4:53 left.
The Ragin' Cajuns went over the 100-point mark (101-70) on a three-pointer by Kasey Shepherd with 1:15 left and Aaron LeBlanc later closed the scoring on a basket with 28 seconds left, giving UL its second 100-point game in three seasons under Marlin. It was the most points in a game since the Cajuns scored 110 at Western Kentucky on Jan. 29, 2004.
After opening the game with some cold shooting, the Cajuns quickly warmed up. They shot .629 from the field in the second half (22-35) and .535 for the game (38-71). They excelled from three-point, going 11-for-22 (.500), their third game of 10 or more treys this year.
The Cajuns also shot well from the line, going 18-for-23 (.783). It snapped a streak of seven straight games shooting .700 or lower.
The biggest statistic of the night was rebounding where the Cajuns had a 38-27 rebounding edge, including 21-9 in the second half, marked the first time in 12 league games that they out-rebounded their opponent.
Louisiana trailed just once in the game, 1-0, when Williams made the first of two free throws just 15 seconds into the game.
The Cajuns used a pair of treys by Steven Wronkoski and a third by Mbamalu to jump out to a quick 17-5 lead with 13:40 left.
The lead would grow. Leading 17-10 (12:26), the Cajuns ran off eight straight points, including six by Mbamalu, to open up a 25-10 advantage with 10:47 left.
A three-point play by Long and one of two free throws by Payton pushed the lead to 31-14 at the 8:45 mark.
North Texas would rally, using a 17-6 burst to trim the lead to 37-31 with 3:11 left and the game went to halftime with Louisiana leading, 45-37.
The Mean Green suffered a blow early in the second half when Tony Mitchell, the preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year, picked up his third (19:38) and fourth (17:55) fouls early in the second half, the fourth coming on a technical foul.
With Mitchell out of the lineup, the Cajuns took over to sweep the regular season series against the Mean Green. UL is 21-15 aginst UNT, including 14-4 in games played in Lafayette.
The Cajuns head back on the road, traveling to Troy, Ala. for a 7:30 p.m. meeting with the Trojans on Saturday (Feb. 2) in the recently opened Trojan Arena on the Troy campus. It will be another doubleheader Saturday with the Cajuns women's basketball team facing Troy starting at 5:15 p.m.