Feb 14, 2013 10:33 PM by AP
Augustine Rubit scored a game-high 34 points and the Cajuns were out-shot 36-18 at the foul line as South Alabama handed Louisiana an 88-64 setback on Thursday night in the Mitchell Center.
The loss drops the Cajuns to 9-17 on the year and 5-10 in Sun Belt play, good for third place in the west division. South Alabama improves to 15-9 overall and 12-4 in Sun Belt action, the second best record in the league this year but 2.5 games behind Middle Tennessee in the east division.
"South Alabama is a good team and they really used their inside game tonight to take control," Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin said. "When Elridge (Moore) picked up his third foul early, we didn't have anybody to stop Rubit down low and he really took over.
"As the whistles kept blowing in the first half, we kept getting at a worse advantage. They were calling a tight game inside, but letting the play get a little loose outside and that helped South Alabama out.
"I am disappointed. I thought that we had a better chance here tonight, especially when you consider how close the first meeting was, but when we had Elfrid and Elridge on the bench in foul trouble just before half, they (South Alabama) went on a 9-0 run to end the half that really put us behind the eight-ball. We had fought hard to stay close, but once they opened the game up, it was hard for us to come back.
"You are not going to win a game when your opponent shoots 16 free throws in the first half and you only get one. It was hard enough to stay close with this team, especially when they were able to score with the clock stopped.
"This is a really good team. They can score both inside and out and can play defense. They will be a tough draw in the league tourney," Marlin added.
Elfrid Payton led Louisiana with 17 points and seven assists while Kasey Shepherd came off the bench to set a career high with 14 points. Shawn Long scored 11 points with eight rebounds.
The story of the game was Rubit, who went 11-for-16 from the field and 12-for-16 from the line to break his previous career high of 32 points set at ULM on Jan. 3. He added 12 rebounds, six coming on the offensive glass.
Mychal Ammons added 18 points and 11 rebounds for South Alabama.
South Alabama took advantage of the 13 Cajun turnovers to hold a 24-8 lead in points off turnovers.
Free throw shooting was a key as South Alabama made 25 of its 36 charity tosses (.694) while the Cajuns were limited to 12-for-18 shooting (.667), making its only free throw attempt in the first half.
The Cajuns opened the scoring at the 18:28 mark when Payton penetrated the lane and drew two defenders, only to pass to an open Long down low.
With the Jaguars ahead, 10-9 (13:12), Rubit scored six straight points, including four from the foul line, to make it a 16-9 game at the 10:16 mark.
South Alabama would push the lead to 21-14 on a Steven Barrington trey at the 9:01 mark, but baskets by Wronkoski, Shepherd and Mbamalu brought the Cajuns back to within 22-20 with 7:33 left.
The teams repeatedly traded baskets until the Cajuns closed to 30-28 on a Payton jumper with 4:04 left.
The rest of the half belonged to the Jaguars as South Alabama ran off nine straight points, the last three coming on an Antoine Allen three-pointer with four seconds left, to give South Alabama a 39-28 halftime lead.
Foul trouble hurt the Cajuns in the opening stanza as Payton and Elridge Moore each picked up three first half fouls while Shepherd had two. The fouls led to the Jaguars owning a 16-1 advantage at the foul line with USA outscoring the Cajuns, 10-1.
Louisiana kept fighting off the Jaguar runs, trailing 54-40 with 13:28 left, but a 5-0 burst, including a pair of technical foul free throws by Rubit, extended the South Alabama lead to 59-40 with 12:45 left.
That was as close as Louisiana would come as the Jaguars would extend the lead down the stretch to claim the win.
The Cajuns return home on Saturday (Feb. 16) to host Florida Atlantic at 7:15 p.m. in the Cajundome. The contest is a doubleheader with the Louisiana women's team facing FAU at 5:00 p.m. and starts a three-game home stand that will end the 2012-13 home schedule.