Cajuns beat UALR in 2OT
Bryant Mbamalu scored seven of his season-high tying 14 points in double overtime and the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns won their fourth consecutive game Thursday in a 93-87 decision against UALR in Sun Belt Conference action at the Cajundome.
Elfrid Payton posted a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds while dishing out six assists, blocking a career-high four shots and recording a pair of steals for Louisiana-Lafayette (16-9, 7-5 SBC). Xavian Rimmer added 20 points for the Ragin’ Cajuns, who led by as many as 19 points against injury-depleted UALR (12-13, 7-6 SBC).
“This was a very good win for us tonight against a very well-coached team in UALR,” ULL head coach Bob Marlin said in a news release. “We had some guys step up and play well for us tonight. Our crowd made a difference for us at the end of the game, and we’re going to need that on Saturday when we play a very good team in Arkansas State.”
Mbamalu, who finished 4-for-10 from the floor, gave the Ragin’ Cajuns an 85-82 lead when he collected a missed 3-point attempt by Kevin Brown and scored with 1:10 remaining in the extra session. The senior fueled the Cajuns’ defense on UALR’s ensuing possession as he stepped in front of a DeVonte Smith pass, drove the length of the court and scored on a three-point play for an 88-82 lead with 41 seconds left.
After Mbamalu grabbed a rebound and was fouled off a missed 3-pointer by Mareik Isom, the senior drained a pair of insurance free throws to help seal the win.
The Cajuns used a 27-8 run in the first half that turned an 8-8 contest into a 35-16 lead that was capped by a jumper by J.J. Davenport with 7:33 remaining in the first half.
UALR, which trailed 47-35 at halftime, fought back behind the shooting of Josh Hagins, who finished with a career-high 24 points on 8-for-24 shooting. His 3-pointer with 48.4 seconds remaining in regulation tied the game at 72 before his potential game-winning bucket just before the buzzer fell short.
After a bucket by Payton just inside the 3-point line with 2 seconds left in the first overtime gave the Cajuns an 80-78 lead, Hagins was fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass near mid-court and sank both free throws to send the game to a second overtime.
But the Cajuns eventually would pull away against the Trojans as Payton hit a free throw with 2:21 remaining in the final session for an 83-82 lead they would not relinquish.
Brown added eight points for Louisiana-Lafayette, which shot 52 percent in the first half and finished 26-for-55 (47 percent) for the game.
The Cajuns held UALR to 32-for-77 (42 percent) from the floor while posting season-highs in free throws made (33) and attempts (48).
Smith added 16 points for UALR, which played without leading scorer Will Neighbour and dressed 10 players with five players fouling out. Maurius Hill scored 15 points for the Trojans with Ben Dillard adding 10.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will return to action Saturday when they host Arkansas State in a 7:15 p.m. contest at the Cajundome. The game will be part of a Sun Belt Conference doubleheader with the Ragin’ Cajuns women’s team hosting Arkansas State beginning at 5 p.m.