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Men’s Basketball: Cajuns claim OT victory

Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, Dec. 15, 2013

Athletic Network Footnote:     Click here for video of post game interviews.

Click here for UL vs. Houston Photo Gallery  Including photo of Jerry Flake’s jersey retirement.

Up by five points with less than a minute left in overtime, UL missed five of six free throws in a span of just 30 seconds.

But the 7-3 Ragin’ Cajuns managed to hang on anyway for a 79-76 victory over Houston on Saturday night at the Cajundome, winning for the fifth time in six outings behind 31 points from point guard Elfrid Payton and a 22-point, 12-rebound double-double by big man Shawn Long.


Or torture?

“I think you split it down the middle – coming that close to losing, and then we just got some breaks,” said Payton, who missed 3-of-4 during that stretch while Long was 0-for-2.

“But it was fun,” he added. “It was fun because we won. It wouldn’t have been too fun if we had lost.”

UL, which trailed 40-32 at halftime, was down 69-68 to Houston after Payton missed 1-of-2 and, a second later, Cougar leading-scorer and 27-point team-high scorer TaShawn Thomas made 2-of-2 freebies with 53 seconds to go in regulation.

After Houston went up by 10 early after the break, the Cajuns had gotten back into it by slowing things down and showing up strong on the defensive end.

“We just came out (of halftime) wanting it. We figured this is our house, and we (weren’t) trying to lose in front of our fans,” said Long, who had all three of his blocks after the start of the second half.

“So it was just the fire inside of us, just trying to make hustle plays, going for 50-50 balls, trying to play better defense. And I think we did alright.”

“We felt we gave up a lot of transition buckets in the first half, and we really felt that was the difference,” Payton added. “We were turning it over (eight times in the opening half alone), and it was like pick-sixes.

“We’d turn it over, and that’s a layup. We figured if we could stop the ball and try to make plays in the halfcourt we’d have a better chance, and we (were) able to do that.”

Coming out of a timeout with 21.7 seconds left in regulation, Houston had a chance to extend its 69-68 lead.

But with 13 seconds to go, Cajuns guard Kevin Brown tipped a Cougar pass and teammate Steven Wronkoski came up with control of the turnover.

That set up a drive for the win by Payton, who wound up getting fouled and going to the line – and again making 1-of-2, leaving the game tied at 69.

A failed Houston halfcourt heave by Thomas led to overtime.

UL jumped to a 77-71 lead in the five-minute extra session behind a Long tip-in, a Long-fed inside bucket by Payton, an Xavian Rimmer 3-pointer and one Payton free throw on a night he finished 11-of-19 from the foul line and the Cajuns made just 60.6 percent at 20-of-33.

The trey in front of the UL bench by Rimmer, who was scoreless and 0-for-3 from the field at the time, was critical for the Cajuns.

“We see that every day, though, at practice,” Long said.

“That was big, for him to knock it down with confidence,” Payton added. “We always tell him, if he’s open, to take that shot. … I had no doubt it was going in.”

Also big for the UL was, after Thomas drove and dunked to make it 77-76, having Payton hit his final two at the free-throw line with 11.5 seconds remaining in overtime.

“It’s tough,” Long said of the wild finish.

“But it’s the kind of thing you’ve got to expect playing this game, you know?” he added. “Not every game is gonna go smooth – home or away. So, I think we handled it very well.”

LAGNIAPPE: UL was playing without usual starting power forward Elridge Moore due to a sprained ankle sustained in practice Friday. Coach Bob Marlin said he expects both Moore and Bryant Mbamalu to be back for the start of Sun Belt Conference play in early January. … With Moore out, Long opened at power forward and Abbeville High product and New Mexico juco-transfer J.J. Davenport got his first start as a Cajun. The center had four points and six rebounds in 24 minutes, prompting Long and Payton to say in stereo that Davenport’s contribution was “huge.” … Houston, playing without usual starting point guard L.J. Rose due to a foot injury, fell to 7-5. The Cougars are now 0-4 all-time in Lafayette. … UL backup point guard Kasey Shepherd, who is from Houston, hit 3 of 4 from 3-point range … In the house at the Cajundome: Rayville High product, ex-Cougar and 12-time NBA All-Star Elvin Hayes, who does color commentator for Houston’s radio broadcast. … Payton was presented before the game with a plaque from USA Basketball for helping it win gold earlier this summer at the FIBA U19 World Championship in the Czech Republic. … At halftime UL retired the old No. 20 of Jerry Flake, the program’s all-time free-throw leader.