UL Sports

Jan 6, 2013 10:31 AM by UL Sports Information

Hot Streak Continues For Mbamalu, Not Enough As Cajuns Fall 75-70 to FIU

Bryant Mbamalu scored 23 points and Louisiana made a season-high 12 three-pointers but it was not enough as Malik Smith's three-pointer with 1:30 left gave FIU the lead for good as the Ragin' Cajuns dropped a 75-70 decision at FIU in the U.S. Century Bank Arena on Saturday night.

The loss drops Louisiana to 6-11 on the year and the Cajuns remain in third place in the Sun Belt's west division with a 2-4 mark. FIU improves to 6-7 on the year and 2-3 in league play.

"We just didn't make enough plays tonight," head coach Bob Marlin said. "We had our chances but couldn't get it done. We were out-hustled at times and missed too many free throws.

"On the other hand, I am proud of the way we fought. We were short-handed because of the foul trouble and some of our freshmen really stepped up and contributed. We didn't get it done tonight, but hopefully it is a good sign for down the road."

With Cajun starters Shawn Long and Bryant Mbamalu in foul trouble for most of the game, the Louisiana offense had to battle all night for points. UL shot .383 from the field (23-60), was just 12-for-22 from the line (.545) and committed a season-high 22 turnovers.

But through grit and determination, Louisiana stayed in it, going 12-for-30 from three-point (.400) and forcing 22 FIU turnovers as well.

Mbamalu led the way with 23 points, going eight-for-15 from the field with four three-pointers, while Elfrid Payton fell one rebound short of a triple-double with 13 points, a career-high 10 assists and nine rebounds. It was the fourth time in the last six games that Mbamalu scored 20 points or more.

The Cajun bench, which scored just seven points on Thursday night at Florida Atlantic, scored 29 points. Alan-Michael Thompson led the reserves with 11 points while freshmen Josh Soto and Kasey Shepherd each added nine points.

"Our bench did some nice things tonight at times and some bad things as well. We were forced into some unusual situations and played some different combinations and even though everything didn't go well, the effort was there. It is something that we can build on," Marlin added.

Tymell Murphy dominated play for FIU, scoring 28 points with 15 rebounds and five blocked shots. He was 11-for-14 from the field and made both of his three-point attempts. Jimenez Porcher was the only other Panther in double-figures, coming off the bench to score 10 points.

After 37 physical minutes of play that included an aggressive pressing defense by both teams, the game was decided in the final three minutes.

Payton made one of two free throws to knot the game at 64-64 with 2:44 left. On UL's next possession, Steven Wronkoski was fouled underneath, but missed both free throws.

Murphy answered the misses with a trey from the top of the key and then blocked a Thompson trey at the other end of the court. On FIU's next possession, Murphy was fouled as he scored inside, converting the free to give FIU a 67-61 lead with 42 seconds left.

Louisiana would pull to within 72-69 on a Soto trey with 21 seconds left, but could come no closer after than.

The problems started after Long tied the game at 2-2 with a dunk 115 seconds into the game.

Long would pick up two fouls in the first four minutes, sending him to the bench and helping the Golden Panthers to go on a 13-1 run to open up a 14-5 lead at the 13:06 mark.

The Cajuns used the long ball to climb back, knocking down four three-pointers, including a pair by Mbamalu, to close to within 24-22 with 7:47 left.

Mbamalu would go to the bench with his second foul at the 7:47 mark and Long, who returned to play several possessions during the run, picked up his third foul with 6:30 left.

Kasey Shepherd would knock down a trey with 5:25 left to tie the game at 28-28, but the foul trouble would take its toll on UL. With all six healthy reserves seeing action in the first half and the bench totaling 39 minutes of action, FIU took advantage of the weakened lineup.

A three-pointer by Gaby Belardo and one of two free throws by Jerome Frink pushed the FIU lead back to 32-28.

After Alan-Michael Thompson hit a three-pointer, the seventh of the first half for UL, to make it a 32-31 game, four different Panthers would hit shots as part of an 8-0 run to close the half with FIU leading, 40-31 at the break.

Long picked up his fourth foul of the night just 56 seconds into the second half, sending the nation's third-best freshman rebounder to the bench again.

With Payton taking the ball to the basket offensively, the Cajuns opened the second half with a 11-3 burst to pull to within 43-42 at the 15:34 mark. Payton scored three baskets during the run with Mbamalu finishing it with a three-point play.

The Cajuns just could not finish the comeback.

After Mbamalu made his fourth trey of the game to make it a 50-48 game with 12:21 left, FIU ran off eight straight to push the lead to 58-48 with 10:16 left.

Back-to-back treys by Josh Soto and Thompson would bring Louisiana back to within four (60-56)

Long, who leads the Sun Belt and ranks third nationally with eight double-doubles this season, with 8:16 left after posting a career low two points and two rebounds in 10 minutes.

Florida International would build the lead back to 64-58 (5:45) before Thompson scored five points during a 6-0 run that tied the game at 64-64 with 2:44 left.

Louisiana returns to the Cajundome this week to continue Sun Belt play with a pair of home games. The Cajuns will host South Alabama on Thursday (Jan. 10) at 7:00 p.m. and Arkansas State on Saturday (Jan. 12) at 7:15 p.m. as part of a doubleheader with the women's team.

LAGNIAPPE - This was the 22nd series meeting between Louisiana and FIU with the Cajuns owning a 16-5 series lead. . . the game might be the last in Fort Lauderdale for awhile as FIU has been accepted as a member of Conference USA and could leave the Sun Belt after this season. . . either way, the two teams will meet again in Lafayette on Jan. 24. . . senior Alan-Michael Thompson played despite spraining an ankle late in Thursday night's game at Florida Atlantic.

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