Dec 15, 2013 12:59 AM by UL Sports Information
LAFAYETTE, La. - Elfrid Payton scored 31 points, including a free throw with 2.9 seconds left to force overtime and two free throws with 12 seconds left to ice the game, and Shawn Long added a double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds as Louisiana claimed a 79-76 overtime win over Houston on Saturday night in the Cajundome.
The win improved the Cajuns to 7-3 on the year, including a 4-0 mark at home, while Houston slips to 7-5.
Louisiana took over the lead midway through the second half, building a seven-point advantage on a Kasey Shepherd three-pointer with 5:45 left that made it a 64-57 game.
The Cajuns would struggle offensively down the stretch, scoring just three points on foul shots in the next four minutes to let Houston come back to tie the game at 67-67 on a Jherrod Stiggers dunk with 1:41 left.
Payton put the Cajuns back on top, 68-67, by making one of two free throws with 54 seconds left, but Tashawn Thomas, who lef the Cougars with 27 points, made a pair of free throws with 53 seconds left to put Houston back on top, 69-68.
Following a missed shot in the lane by Long, Houston had a chance to put the game away, but Stiggers was off on a three-pointer and Steven Wronkoski stole a pass along the perimeter with 10 seconds left.
Wronkoski fed Payton, who took the ball to the basket and drew a fouls with 2.9 seconds left. Payton, who was 11-for-19 from the stripe, made the first of two to tie the game, but his second effort was long, sending the game into overtime tied at 69-69.
Louisiana jumped right out in the extra session as Long scored in the lane to give the Cajuns a two-point lead. Kevin Brown stole the ball at the other end and Long found Payton open inside for an easy basket. Xavian Rimmer, who was scoreless through regulation, gave the Cajuns a 76-69 lead with 2:05 left on a three-pointer off a pass from Payton.
Houston would counter with a 6-1 run over the next 1:52, climaxing with a Thomas dunk that pulled the Cougars to within 77-76 with 13 seconds left.
Payton however took charge, drawing a foul with 12 seconds left and calmly knocking down both free throws to extend the lead to 79-76.
Houston had one last chance, but a Stiggers three-point attempt was off the mark with two seconds left and Thomas grabbed the rebound but was unable to get a second shot off before the buzzer.
"It was an exciting basketball game that hopefully made two teams better," Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin said. "We talked about it before the game that the winning team was going to have to fight through some adversity, which we did.
We played much better defense in the second half. Some things went against us. We had the game in control and then we had to rally to forced overtime. We were fortunate to get off to a great start because our defense and rebounding were good in overtime. We were able to hang on and beat a pretty good basketball team.
"I told the guys at halftime that 35 points was all we could give up and we only gave them 36 through overtime," Marlin added.
After Houston shot a blistering 16-for-22 from the field in the first half (.727), the Cajuns turned up the pressure and limited them to eigh-for-21 in the second half (.381) and just three-for-eight in overtime.
The Cajuns offense was the exact opposite, shooting .414 in the opening stanza (12-29) but bounced back to go 11-for-21 in the second half (.524) and shoot .456 for the game (26-57).
The Houston advantage came at the foul line where the Cougars were 18-for-23 (.783) while Louisiana struggled to make just 20-of-33 .606), including three-for-seven in overtime.
"It is ironic that we had a chance to win the game at the foul line on the same night that the school's best free-throw shooter ever (Jerry Flake) had his number retired," Marlin mused.
The Cajuns used a different starting lineup for the first time this season as J.J. Davenport earned the start over Elridge Moore, who was injured in practice on Friday.
Davenport played perhaps his best game in his short Louisiana career, scoring four points with a career high six rebounds in 26 minutes, almost double his previous high of 14 minutes set against Coastal Carolina.
The first half featured five ties and three lead changes with Louisiana's largest lead coming when Long knocked down a three-pointer with 17:34 left to make it a 6-2 game.
The Cajuns led, 21-19 with 9:10 left in the half on a three-pointer by Kasey Shepherd.
The Cougars would answer with 10 straight points, four coming from Leron Barnes, to open up a 29-21 lead with 4:50 left.
Louisiana would close to within 32-28 with 3:28 left on five straight points from Payton but a Jherrod Stiggers three-pointer with 34 seconds left send Houston to the locker room leading 40-32.
"We let them shoot a blistering 73-percent in the first half," Marlin said. "Our game plan was to back off (Tashawn) Thomas and (J.J.) Richardson a little bit, but we gave them some free throw line jumpers early in the game and they knocked them down and it got Thomas going.
With fall semester finals over, the Cajuns will continue the pre-holiday stretch of three games in six days when Louisiana host Centenary on Tuesday, Dec. 17 beginning at 7:05 p.m. in the Cajundome. Louisiana then closes the stretch at Jackson State on Thursday (Dec. 19) at 7:30 p.m. CST.
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