Feb 16, 2014 12:11 AM by UL Sports Information
LAFAYETTE - Elfrid Payton scored a game-high 22 points to lead four players in double figures and the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns erased an 11-point first-half deficit to defeat Arkansas State, 85-67, in a Sun Belt Conference game Saturday night at the Cajundome.
Bryant Mbamalu scored a season-high 19 points for Louisiana (17-9, 8-5 SBC), which won its season-high fifth straight game and moved past A-State (14-9, 7-5 SBC) into third place in the league standings. The Cajuns put the game away in the second half as they shot 59 percent from the floor (19-for-32) in the second half and outscored the Red Wolves in the final 20 minutes, 53-35.
Shawn Long added 16 points for the Cajuns and became the 41st player in school history to reach the 1,000-point barrier. The Morgan City, La., product scored on a jumper with 15 seconds remaining to increase his career total to 1,001 points, and became the fifth sophomore in school history to achieve the feat joining a group that includes Bo Lamar, Andrew Toney, Kevin Brooks and Jerry Flake.
Louisiana was stymied early by an A-State defense that held the Cajuns scoreless for over six minutes in the first half while building a 15-4 lead. The Red Wolves led 10-4 on a pair of free throws by Kirk Van Slyke before a jumper by Ed Townsel and a 3-pointer by Kendrick Washington gave A-State its biggest lead of the game.
The Cajuns responded with an 11-4 run that cut the lead to 19-15 on a made free throw by Long with 7:44 remaining in the first half before a free throw by Mbamalu at the 4:53 mark would eventually tie the score at 22-22.
Mbamalu, who finished 7-for-13 from the floor, gave Louisiana its first lead since early in the first half when he drained a 3-pointer for a 38-37 advantage with 18:17 remaining in the game. Both teams would trade baskets before a layup by Mbamalu gave the Cajuns the lead for good at 42-41 with 17:05 remaining.
That sparked a 15-0 run for the Cajuns, who built a 55-41 lead with 13:55 remaining and never let A-State get within eight points the rest of the way. Payton added a layup and free throw for the Cajuns for a 45-41 lead before Long connected on a 3-pointer, and Mbamalu scored on a layup and hit a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 53-41.
A-State closed the gap to 72-64 when Brandon Reed converted on a three-point play, but the Cajuns closed out the game on a 13-3 run to seal the win.
Louisiana, the top-scoring team in the Sun Belt Conference averaging 81.3 points per game, finished 31-for-59 (52.5 percent) from the floor and 7-for-16 (43.8 percent) from behind the 3-point line. J.J. Davenport added 13 points and six rebounds for the Cajuns, who dominated the boards with a 40-23 advantage.
Long, who finished 6-for-11 from the floor and blocked three shots and added a pair of steals, grabbed 11 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season and 32nd of his career.
Washington and Melvin Johnson III scored 19 points each to lead A-State, which had its three-game winning streak snapped. Townsel added 13 points for the Red Wolves, who finished 21-for-51 from the floor (41.2 percent) and 6-for-19 (31.6 percent) from behind the 3-point line.
Louisiana will return to action on Thursday when it entertains Troy in a Sun Belt Conference game at 7:05 p.m. Tickets can be purchased from the Cajundome Ticket Office at (337) 265-2357 or on-line at www.RaginCajuns.com.