Mar 1, 2013 12:16 PM by UL
The road continues to be a hard one for the Ragin' Cajuns basketball team as Louisiana fell behind by 10 points at halftime and just couldn't make it up as UALR out-lasted the Cajuns for a 77-68 win on Thursday night in the Stephens Center.
The loss drops Louisiana to 11-19 on the year and 7-12 in Sun Belt Conference play. UALR improves to 16-14 overall and 10-9 in league play.
With one game left to play, the Ragin; Cajuns will most likely be the No. 8 in next week's Sun Belt Conference championship, regardless of the Cajuns do at ULM on Saturday. The only way for UL to improve their seed is if Louisiana defeats ULM combined with an FAU loss to FIU will let the Cajuns move up to No. 7.
If Louisiana finishes as the No. 7 seed, the Cajuns would face No. 10 Troy in the opening round on Friday (March 8). As the No. 8 seed, UL would face No. 9 North Texas in the opening round for the second straight year.
"We really showed our youth and inexperience tonight," third year head coach Bob Marlin said. "We made poor choices on defense and every time we had a chance to cut into their lead, we either missed a shot or couldn't convert our free throws. It was disappointing.
"We worked real hard to get the lead down to six a couple of times but then we would let up an easy play inside or an open perimeter jumper that let them extend their lead. This was a team loss."
Shawn Long led the Cajuns with 19 points and eight rebounds while Alan-Michael Thompson added 18 points, Elfrid Payton 17 points, eight assists and three steals and Bryant Mbamalu 13 points.
Wil Neighbour led the Trojans with 17 points and 11 rebounds with Josh Hagins adding 14 points, John Gillon 13 and Leroy Isler 10.
"We're used to seeing Bryant, Shawn, Elfrid and Alan-Michael lead us offensively, but tonight, we didn't get anything else from anybody. If we got any production from our bench, we get this win," Marlin said.
With starter Elridge Moore going scoreless, Steven Wronkoski was the lone Louisiana reserve to score a point in the game as the UL bench was outscored by UALR, 27-1.
Although the Cajuns were out-rebounded 42-29 in the contest, they made up for it by forcing 18 UALR turnovers while matching their season low by making just eight miscues. Louisiana had a 23-12 edge in points of turnovers.
UALR didn't need second chances as the Trojans shot .490 from the field (24-49), .429 from three-point (6-14) and .793 from the line (23-29).
After shooting .276 in the first half (8-29), Louisiana improved to .350 for the game (21-60), but was just four-for-20 from three-point (.200) and made 23 of its 29 free throw attempts (.688).
The Cajuns drew first blood just 48 seconds into the game when Thompson scored in the lane.
UALR then ran off 13 of the next 17 points, including six by Hagins, to open up a 13-6 lead at the 12:35 mark.
Louisiana answered with eight straight points of its own to take a 15-13 lead at the 10:53 mark. Thompson keyed the run with four free throws while Mbamalu capped it with a basket inside.
After the Cajuns took a 17-15 lead on a baseline jumper by Long with 10:07 left, UALR ran off 10 straight points to open up a 25-17 lead at the 6:35 mark and Louisiana trailed, 36-26 at half.
The Trojans extended their lead to 59-43 with 10:59 left before Payton and Long combined to score seven points during an 8-0 run the pulled UL to within 59-51 with 8:41 left.
A pair of free throws by Leroy Isler pushed the UALR lead to 61-51 (8:22).
A dunk by Payton followed by a trey by Thompson and two free throws by Payton closed the gap to 62-58 with 5:28 remaining.
A three-pointer by Neighbour extended the margin back to seven and although Louisiana would cut the deficit to six on two occasions (67-61, 4:00 & 70-64, 1:51), UALR provided few opportunities for the Cajuns to mount a comeback, eventually extending the lead back to 75-64 with 55 seconds left.
After a practice day on Friday, the Cajuns travel to Monroe, La. to close the 2012-13 regular season against ULM on Saturday (March 2) beginning at 4:00 p.m.