Feb 11, 2013 1:41 PM by UL Sports Information
Bryant Mbamalu came off the bench to lead six Cajuns in double figures with 24 point as Louisiana used a 24-0 run in the second half to break open a close game and run away with a 90-66 decision over ULM on Sunday night in the Dean O's Pizza Dome.
The victory improved the Cajuns to 9-16 on the year and 5-9 in Sun Belt play, good for third place in the west division. ULM drops to 3-17 overall and sits in last place in the west division with a 2-12 record.
Mbamalu continued his torrid scoring pace, making four three-pointers as part of a 24 point night to lead the Ragin' Cajuns offensively.
The entire tarting lineup scored in double figures with Elfrid Payton scoring 15 points, Alan-Michael Thompson 12, Shawn Long and Elridge Moore 11 and Steven Wronkoski 10.
Trent Mackey led the Warhawks with 20 point, including a six-for-eight effort from three-point while Amos Alatayo added 15 points.
"I thought we went out tonight and showed some pretty good energy at both ends of the court," Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin said. "We shot the ball well and played hard defensively without a lot of mistakes.
"We got off to a good start. We were able to score on the first two possessions of the ball game off of set plays. We did a good job defensively early in the ball game, and then we got lackadaisical and they started attacking us."
Louisiana led from wire-to-wire, but there were some anxious moments.
After leading by as many as 11 in the first half, the Cajuns saw their lead dwindle to just four, 54-50 with 13:20 left.
And then everything clicked into place.
Long scored a basket inside following an offensive rebound.
Thompson knocked down a three-pointer in transition and Moore scored in the lane off a nice pass from Mbamalu.
The run was interrupted by a media timeout, but not before Mbamalu was fouled attempting a three-pointer to earn three free throws, sending UL to the huddle leading 61-50 with 11:02 left.
"I felt ike thing were starting to turn for us at that timeout," Marlin said. "We had a couple of good possessions and then put a press on that confused them a little and forced some turnovers."
The run continued.
Four straight free throws, two by Mbamalu and two by Payton were followed by a three-pointer from Thjompson and two straight baskets inside by Moore, the last a three-point play that pushed the run to 19 and gave Louisiana a 73-50 lead with 9:13 left.
The run ended after a layup by Mbamalu and three-pointer by Thompson gave UL a 78-50 lead with 7:21 left.
Trey Lindsey snapped the run for ULM, scoring on a put-back with 6:48 left that ended a 6:32 scoreless stretch.
"I knew that we were on a nice run, but I never imagined it was 24-0," Marlin said. "We obviously saw all of the shots falling in front of us at our end, but we were also counting the consecutive good possessions defensively. Those runs don't happen very often, but they are nice."
The teams played out the string after that as Marlin cleared the bench with three minutes left.
The win avenged a 78-60 loss to the Warhawks last year in the regular season finale last year, a loss that stuck with the Cajuns returners.
"I remember that game well," Mbamalu recalled. It was Senior Night and we wanted to send our seniors out but it was a rivalry game and they came in and beat us in our house. The coaches didn't have to remind us of that."
The victory came following one of the better offensive performances of the year. Louisiana shot better than 50-percent from the field for the fifth time this year, going 32-for-61 (.525) while making 10 three-pointers. For good measure, UL was 16-for-19 from the foul line (.842), trailing only a .857 effort (12-14) at Boise State.
Louisiana had a 34-25 rebounding edge, its second positive rebounding effort in league play, and committed a season low eight turnovers. The Cajuns also forced 14 miscues, owning a 27-10 lead in points off turnovers.
Mbamalu was outstanding again, scoring 16 points or more for the seventh straight game. He is averaging 19.3 points since coming back from a thumb injury three games ago.
Long struggled with his shooting but added a game-high 11 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the year, ranking him third nationally.
Payton scored nine of Louisiana's first 16 points and finished with a perfect shooting night, going five-for-five from the field and made all five free throws. He added seven assists and four steals.
Thompson also continued his strong scoring streak, making three treys to finish with 12 points. He is averaging 13.5 points over his last four games and has had multiple three-pointers in five straight games.
The Cajuns also received some scoring from some unusual sources as Moore scored in double figures for fifth time this year while Wronkoski accomplished it for just the second time since Christmas.
"Elridge played hard tonight," Marlin said. "Usually he does the little things that you don't notice, but tonight, he also scored.
"We took Steven out early in the second half because he committed a bad turnover and then didn't get back defensively and gave up a layup. I don't think he liked that because when he went back in, he was relentless."
The Cajuns will head back out on the road this week, traveling to Mobile, Ala. to face South Alabama on Thursday (Feb. 14) at 7:05 p.m. before returning home to host Florida Atlantic on Saturday (Feb. 16) at 7:15 p.m. in the Cajundome.