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Men’s Basketball: Cajuns Claim Share of West Division Crown

Louisiana claimed a share of the Sun Belt West Division title after a 58-51 win over Denver Saturday night.
Louisiana claimed a share of the Sun Belt West Division title after a 58-51 win over Denver Saturday night.
Basketball-M  03/01/2008    Courtesy RaginCajuns.com


Chris Gradnigo scored game-high 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting in seven-point victory

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LAFAYETTEWith the Sun Belt Conference West Division championship on the line, Louisiana avenged one of its worst losses last month with a 58-51 victory over the Denver Pioneers Saturday night in front of 5,174 raucous fans at the CAJUNDOME.

Louisiana‘s (15-14, 11-7 Sun Belt West) victory guarantees the Cajuns a share of the Sun Belt West Division crown. With UALR’s 59-54 win at ULM, Louisiana is the No. 5 seed and will play the Troy Trojans on Wednesday, March 5 at 8:05 p.m. in the CAJUNDOME.

On Senior Night, it was freshman forward Chris Gradnigo (Lake Charles, La.) who stole the show, scoring a game-high 24 points, falling one point shy of his career high. Gradnigo connected on 9-of-13 shots and 4-of-6 from three-point range. Randell Daigle (Lafayette, La.) added 11 points in 26 minutes. Gradnigo and Tyren Johnson (Edgard, La.) each pulled down a team-high six boards.

Rob Lewis led the Pioneers with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Joe Jackson added 10 points. Denver (11-18, 7-11 Sun Belt West) shot 51.3 percent as a team.

Trailing by one at the start of the second half, Louisiana quickly fell behind by five, 32-27, after successive Lewis jump shots. The Cajuns responded with an 11-2 run to take a 38-32 lead at the 14:41 mark.

Denver and Louisiana exchanged baskets for the next nine minutes as Jackson drilled a 15-footer to tie the game for the eighth time. Nate Rohnert’s jumper at the 2:25 mark cut the Cajuns lead to 53-51 and would be the Pioneers’ last basket.

The Cajuns iced the game down the stretch. Courtney Wallace (New Orleans, La.) gave Louisiana a 55-51 lead with 1:59 left in the game. Elijah Millsap (Grambling, La.) and La’Ryan Gary (Lafayette, La.) combined for three free throws in the final 24 seconds to seal the seven-point win.

Louisiana opened with a 7-0 run in the first half with four of those points coming from Gradnigo. Denver responded with an 11-2 spurt, quieting the CAJUNDOME crowd after taking an 11-9 lead.

The Cajuns eventually regained a five-point cushion at the 6:16 mark, 21-16, after a jumper by Abray Milson (Lafayette, La.). However, Denver would conclude the first half on a 12-6 run to take a slim 28-27 lead at the break.

As a team, Denver shot an impressive 58.8 percent from the floor on 12-of-21 shooting, while the Cajuns produced at a 47.6 clip (10-of-21).

Gradnigo led all scorers with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting in the first half. Millsap added six points and three assists in 10 minutes. Jackson paced the Pioneers with eight points, while Adam Tanned chipped in seven.

With the victory, Louisiana will host one of five Sun Belt Conference Championship first round games on Wednesday, March 5. The Cajuns, which enter the tournament as the No. 5 seed, will host No. 12 Troy for an 8:05 p.m. tip at the CAJUNDOME.

For fans interested in purchasing tickets for Wednesday’s game, the CAJUNDOME Ticket Office will be open on Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Lewis, Rob 6-16 3-3 16; Jackson, Joe 3-4 3-3 10; Tanner, Adam 4-6 0-0 9;
McNally, Xander 3-4 0-0 7; Rohnert, Nate 2-5 0-0 4; Peter-Denman, Nigel 1-1
0-0 3; Lewis, Kyle 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 20-39 6-6 51.

Gradnigo, Chris 9-13 2-2 24; Daigle, Randell 4-9 2-2 11; Millsap, Elijah 2-4
3-6 7; Gary, La’Ryan 1-5 2-2 4; Wallace, Courtney 1-2 2-2 4; Dees, David 1-2
0-0 3; Milson, Abray 1-2 0-0 2; Johnson, Tyren 1-1 0-2 2; Bureau, Travis 0-3
1-2 1; Barksdale, Maurice 0-0 0-0 0; Dison, Brandon 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 20-43
12-18 58. 

Halftime: DU 28, UL 27. 3-point goals–Denver 5-13 (Tanner, Adam 1-2; Peter-Denman, Nigel 1-1; Jackson, Joe 1-1; McNally, Xander 1-1; Lewis, Rob 1-5; Lewis, Kyle 0-1; Rohnert, Nate 0-2), Louisiana-Lafayette 6-16 (Gradnigo, Chris 4-6; Daigle, Randell 1-5; Dees, David 1-1; Bureau, Travis 0-3; Millsap, Elijah 0-1). A-5174


Take Care,

Chris Yandle
Assistant Sports Information Director
Volleyball/Men’s Basketball/Baseball Contact
Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns
Office: (337) 482-6330 | Cell: (337) 298-2099 | Fax: (337) 482-6529
yandle@louisiana.edu | www.RaginCajuns.com