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Men’s Basketball: Mbamala relishes honor – UL senior named Outstanding Player

Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, March 17, 2014

Click here for photo gallery of the SBC Championship Game: UL vs. Georgia State

The UL Ragin’ Cajuns basketball players celebrate on the court following their 82-81 overtime victory over the Georgia State Panthers on Sunday in New Orleans. / Paul Kieu/The Advertiser

NEW ORLEANS — What a whirlwind stretch it’s been for UL senior swingman Bryant Mbamalu.

It started with him surpassing the 1,000-career point plateau, improbable considering that he started his college as a defensive-minded player first and foremost.

Two weeks later, Mbamalu was named Most Outstanding Player of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament – especially improbable as well considering that two of his Ragin’ Cajun teammates, Elfrid Payton and Shawn Long were first team All-Sun Belt picks and Mbamalu didn’t even make the third team.

“To win this Outstanding Player Award – I mean, this is big to me,” Mbamalu said. “It’s really a team award, because my teammates do a good job of encouraging me and looking for me and finding me.

“Coach (Bob) Marlin has the most faith in me, and the coaching staff, they put me in good positions to be successful.”

Mbamalu finished Sunday’s 82-81 Sun Belt tourney title-game win over top-seed Georgia State with 13 points, helping the Cajuns into Friday’s NCAA Tournament game against Creighton.

He also had 23 points in a semifinal-round win Saturday over Western Kentucky, and 20 in UL’s second-round win over Texas-Arlington on Saturday night.


UL’s Xavian Rimmer was named to the All-Sun Belt Tournament team.

Rimmer, who started his college career at Alcorn State, had a career-high 24 points against Texas-Arlington.

He followed that up Sunday with another career-high against Georgia State, this time 27, including 7-of-12 shooting from 3-point range.

Also named to the all-tourney team: Georgia State teammates Ryan Harrow and R.J. Hunter, Arkansas State’s Ed Townsel and regular-season Sun Belt scoring leader Reger Dowell.

Harrow had a game-high 37 points against UL on Sunday.


Marlin promised his Cajuns before the season began that he’d get a tattoo if they won the Sun Belt Tournament and made it to the NCAA Tournament.

“I thought about that (Sunday) morning,” he said.

Cajuns players evidently intend to have their coach pay up.

“No, we didn’t forget,” point guard Elfrid Payton said after the win. “We’re gonna get him. Real soon.”


Georgia State coach Ron Hunter, whose Panthers lost only one Sun Belt regular-season game: “We just fell a bit short. There were a couple of things we didn’t do or didn’t do well in the game at all. I’m really proud of these guys for winning 25 games and winning the regular-season championship. I’m just really, really proud of them.

“As I just told them, ‘Life isn’t necessarily always fair. But you just deal with some of the consequences. This one game … will not be a reflection of what we accomplished this year.’ ”

Georgia State did not get an NCAA Tournament bid, but it is going to the NIT and will open at Clemson.


Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter, son of the coach: “It’s tough. In high school it was the same thing – second place in the state championship. It just seemed so close. I’m just proud of my guys. They gave it their all.”


Ticket information regarding the NCAA Tournament will be posted today on UL’s athletics website, ragincajuns.com. … The Cajuns finished with 20 offensive rebounds and beat the Panthers 46-30 on the boards. … UL fans were out-numbered by Western Kentucky supporters on Saturday, but Cajun backers easily out-numbered Georgia State fans on Sunday.

“No, we didn’t forget,” point guard Elfrid Payton said after the win. “We’re gonna get him. Real soon.”