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Men’s Basketball: Cajuns crash Big Dance – UL beats Georgia State in OT for a chance to play in NCAA

Chad Washington, Daily Advertiser, March 17, 2014

Click here for UL Bracket Watch Part.


Fans react to Cajuns Sunday.

NEW ORLEANS — The University of Louisiana at Lafayette basketball team may have wracked the nerves of their fans Sunday. But the Ragin’ Cajuns didn’t disappoint them.

— The University of Louisiana at Lafayette basketball team may have wracked the nerves of their fans Sunday. But the Ragin’ Cajuns didn’t disappoint them.

The UL men’s basketball team beat Georgia State 82-81 in the Sun Belt Conference championship game and punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.

The Cajuns will play Creighton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at in San Antonio.

“The Cajuns clearly have the talent to play with anyone in the league, and frankly, to make a run in the NCAA Tournament,” Jim Slatten from Lafayette said.

The fans came in a little nervous, but excited, before the Cajuns faced the Panthers. “We’ve done our homework, so we know what we’re up against,” said Karren Hays, the president of the UL Rebounders Club, before the game. “Georgia State is not going to beat us three games in a row. We’re ready for them. The last 8/10s of a second are ours.”

It turns out the game was much longer than that, as a Shawn Long rebound and layup by Bryant Mbamalu with 1.5 seconds left in regulation that sent the game to overtime. In the extra session, Elfrid Payton scored six of the Cajuns’ 10 points in OT to pull out the win.

Hays and some other UL fans were here all weekend and sweated out another close win on Saturday over Western Kentucky. The fans — even from the other SBC schools — seemed to enjoy the fun they had in town during the tournament.

“It seems like the fans from all across the league enjoyed New Orleans from talking to them,” Slatten said.

It has been nine years since UL has been to the Big Dance. The Cajuns beat Denver in the Sun Belt title game that year. UL went on to lose to No. 4 Louisville 68-62 in the first round. However, those games were vacated because of NCAA sanctions, including the 2004 Sun Belt tourney win and loss to NC State in the NCAAs. So officially, the last time the Cajuns made it to the Big Dance was in 2000, when UL lost to Tennessee 63-58 in a first-round game at Birmingham, Ala.

The Cajuns also made NCAA Tournament appearances in 1971, 1983, 1992 and 1994, when UL (USL at the time) lost to Marquette 81-59. The Cajuns’ last win in the NCAA Tournament was 87-83 upset of No. 4 Oklahoma in 1992. They had a win over Texas in 1971, but that was also vacated due to NCAA sanctions.

The program has a rich history in basketball, including legendary head coach Beryl Shipley and famous players such as Dwight “Bo” Lamar, Dean Church, Jerry Flake and Anthony Toney.

“It’s satisfying to get the tradition going again at UL,” head coach Bob Marlin said. “We’re excited to see the fans get excited about basketball again.”

And fans are so excited right now, they’re ready to go to San Antonio or anywhere else the Cajuns play.

“I don’t care where they’re going,” Hays said. “I’m going to be there.”