Jan 24, 2013 11:56 PM by UL Sports Information
Elfrid Payton, Alan-Michael Thompson and Shawn Long combined to score 65 points but it was not enough as FIU rallied from a six-point second half deficit to take the lead with seven minutes left and then hold off the Cajuns down the stretch, upending Louisiana, 80-75, on Thursday night in the Cajundome.
The loss drops Louisiana to 7-15 on the year and 3-8 in Sun Belt play. FIU, which has won seven of its last eight games, swept the season series to improve to 11-8 overall and 6-4 in league play.
"I thought we played hard tonight but things just went against us," Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin said. "FIU is a good team and they are playing really well right now. They were able to rally against us late to take the lead and then we weren't good enough to take the lead back.
"I'm proud of my guys because all people see is the won-loss record and they don't realize how badly the deck is stacked against us right now. We only had two guys out there tonight who played last year (Payton & Thompson) and they combined to score 44 points. FIU had better depth and better size yet we were in it right until the end and if the ball had bounced differently once or twice, the outcome would have been different.
"I didn't think we did a good job in transition in the first half and FIU took advantage of it to score some easy baskets. We corrected things at halftime and I thought we played a lot better."
Payton finished the night with 22 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals for his sixth career 20-point effort and fifth this year.
Thompson, who was just one-for-seven from three-point in the first half, bounced back to go five-for-nine in the second half to finish the night six-for-16 to finish with a career-high 22 points. His 16 three-point attempts broke the school single game record of 15, which was held by Randell Daigle vs. La-Monroe (2/12/09) and UALR (1/16/10).
Long scored 21 points with 14 rebounds to register his league-leading 13th double-double of the season and team-best seventh 20-point game of the year.
Jerome Frink led FIU with 20 points with Tymell Myrphy adding 16 points and 16 rebounds and Marco Porch Jimenez came off the bench to add 13 points.
"Murphy hurt us tonight," Marlin said. "He did a good job on the glass and when he got the ball down low, he was able to score against us."
After FIU scored the first six points of the second half to open up a 42-33 lead with 18:41 left, the Cajuns used a 21-6 run to rally and build a 54-48 advantage with 12:25 left.
Louisiana would maintain the lead until nine minutes remained in the contest.
Payton connected on a pair of free throws with 9:16 left to put UL ahead, 58-55. Murphy keyed a run, scoring a pair of baskets inside and then grabbing a big defensive rebound that set up a Jimenez three-pointer that gave FIU a 62-58 lead with 6:51 left.
Louisiana would fight back, tying the game at 70-70 on Payton's career-best third three-pointer of the night with 2:17 left and at 72-72 on a basket inside from Long with 1:52 left.
The Golden Panthers continued to have an answer as Jerome Frink scored inside with 1:43 left to put FIU ahead for good.
The Cajuns had several opportunities to tie the game or take the lead, but Kasey Shepherd and Steven Wronkoski each missed three-pointers and FIU converted six straight free throws in the final minute to deny Louisiana a comeback chance.
After having a +9 rebounding advantage with 10 minutes left, the Cajuns struggled down the stretch, grabbing just three rebounds over the final 8:45 of the game to finish the night tied with the Golden Panthers with 38 rebounds each.
Playing against a zone for a good portion of the game, Louisiana relied on the three-point shot, taking more treys (32) than two-point shots (26) in the game. The Cajuns made a season-high 12 treys, shooting .375 from behind the arc (12-32). FIU was just five-for-21 (.238).
The difference in the game came at the foul line where FIU was 19-for-24 (.792) while the Cajuns converted nine of their 15 attempts (.600).
The first half was a tight affair, featuring four ties and five lead changes.
The Cajuns led by as many as three points on two occasions early.
With FIU leading 31-28, the Gold panthers scored five straight points to open up a 36-28 lead with 2:09 left. The Cajuns countered late in the half with Thompson, who had missed his first six shots in the half, snapping the cold spell with a basket in transition and three-pointer with 46 seconds left to pull Louisiana to within 36-33 at the break.
After playing at least two games a week for seven of the last eight weeks, the Cajuns will take Saturday off for the first time since late November. Louisiana will return to the court on Thursday, Jan. 31 for a 7:00 p.m. game against North Texas in the Cajundome.