Mar 7, 2014 10:42 AM by UL Sports Information
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - Freshman Chris Harrison-Docks came off the bench to score 15 points, including a pair of free throws with 5.6 seconds remaining and Western Kentucky escaped with a hard-fought 75-72 victory over the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns in a Sun Belt Conference game on Thursday at E.A. Diddle Arena.
George Fant scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds as WKU (20-10, 12-5 SBC) earned the No. 2 seed in next week's Sun Belt Conference Tournament in New Orleans. T.J. Price added 13 points for the Hilltoppers while O'Karo Akamune had 10.
"I thought our guys didn't do a really good job of guarding in the first half, but responded and played well in the second half," head coach Bob Marlin said. "Our guys played extremely hard and continued to fight after WKU built an eight-point lead in the second half. Our guys fought back, but they (WKU) made their free throws down the stretch."
Louisiana (19-11, 10-7 SBC) was led by Elfrid Payton, who scored 31 points and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds. Xavian Rimmer added 14 points for the Ragin' Cajuns while Shawn Long grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Cajuns jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the first five minutes, fueled by 3-pointers by Rimmer and Payton, before taking an 18-13 lead when Rimmer drained a 3-pointer with 12:50 remaining in the first half.
WKU would respond, scoring seven straight points to take its first lead of the game when a layup by Price gave the Hilltoppers a 20-18 lead.
Neither team led by three the rest of the half with Harrison-Docks snapped a 34-34 tie when he drained a 3-pointer from the left corner just before the halftime buzzer.
Louisiana rallied to tie the game at 39-39 when Long hit a 3-pointer with 18:31 remaining in the game before WKU took the lead for good when Brandon Harris hit a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.
The Hilltoppers took their biggest lead of the night, 61-53, when Harrison-Docks hit a pair of free throws with 5:28 remaining and led 73-69 on a free throw by Akamune with 14 seconds remaining before the Cajuns cut the lead to 73-72 on a Steven Wronkoski 3-pointer with 6.7 seconds left.
Harrison-Docks was fouled on the ensuing possession and made both free throws before a potential game-tying 3-pointer by Payton fell off the rim at the buzzer.
WKU finished 23-for-55 (41.8 percent) from the floor and 24-for-33 (72.7 percent) from the free throw line, including 21-for-26 in the second half.
Louisiana finished 25-for-69 from the floor (36.2 percent) and 15-for-21 from the line while holding a 47-35 advantage on the boards.
Louisiana will close out the regular-season on Saturday when it faces Arkansas State in a 7:05 p.m. contest at the Convocation Center.