Cajuns win sixth straight
LAFAYETTE — Senior Bryant Mbamalu scored a season-high 21 points and freshman Hayward Register scored all nine of his in a 21-3 run in the first half as the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns earned their sixth consecutive victory, a 78-63 decision against Troy, in a Sun Belt Conference game Thursday at the Cajundome.
Shawn Long and Elfrid Payton added 15 points each as Louisiana-Lafayette (18-9, 9-5 SBC) moved to within a half-game of idle Western Kentucky in the league standings. The Cajuns, whose 12 wins at home are the most since going 12-1 in 2001-02, will return to action Saturday when it visits league leader Georgia State (19-7, 12-1 SBC) in a regionally-televised 7:30 p.m. contest at GSU Arena.
Troy (9-16, 4-9 SBC), which had won two of its last three games, took a 16-10 lead when Kevin Thomas made the second of two free throws with 8:25 remaining in the first half.
But the lead would eventually evaporate as Register buried the first of three 3-pointers that cut the lead to 16-13. After a layup by Thomas that put the Trojans ahead 18-13, the Cajuns scored the next 14 points to put the game away.
Abbeville native J.J. Davenport sank the second of a pair of free throws that cut the lead to 18-14 before consecutive layups by Mbamalu, who finished 9-for-17 from the floor, tied the game at 18 with 5:46 remaining.
Then Register, a Lafayette native and Comeaux High product, answered again. After a steal by Mbamalu, Register buried a 3-pointer from the right-wing to put the Cajuns ahead 21-18 before sinking his third trey after a steal by Payton, pushing Louisiana-Lafayette’s lead to 24-18 with 4:30 remaining.
Xavian Rimmer added a 3-pointer from the top of the key that gave the Cajuns a 27-18 advantage and layups by Davenport and Payton would give Louisiana-Lafayette a 31-19 lead in the final minute of the first half.
Troy got as close as 35-27 when Hunter Williams sank a 3-pointer with 18:31 remaining in the game, but a three-point play by Long, a layup by Payton and a dunk by Long gave Louisiana-Lafayette a 42-27 lead.
Louisiana-Lafayette finished 31-for-57 (54.4 percent) from the floor and went 5-for-14 (35.7 percent) from 3-point range.
Long grabbed a team-high nine rebounds for the Cajuns, while Payton dished out seven assists and Mbamalu recorded a career-high four steals.
Antoine Myers scored 14 points to lead four Troy players in double figures. Thomas, Williams and Kelton Ford added 11 points each for the Trojans, who finished 21-for-54 (38.9 percent) from the floor and 14-for-26 (53.8 percent) from the free throw line.