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Men’s Basketball: Statement victory – Cajuns steamroll Red Wolves to take over third

Chad Washington, Daily Advertiser, Feb. 16, 2014

Click here for the digital photo gallery of Women’s and Men’s Basketball vs. Arkansas State.

It took a couple of technical fouls for the UL men’s basketball team to show its angry side. And if the Ragin’ Cajuns keep playing this way, other teams may just choose to be a little nicer to coach Bob Marlin’s club.

UL scored 53 points in the second half to run away with an 85-67 win over Arkansas State Saturday night at the Cajundome. The win vaults the Cajuns into sole possession of third place in the Sun Belt Conference standing and suddenly within shouting range of first place thanks to unexpected upsets of Georgia State and Western Kentucky.

The win is also the fifth straight for UL, its longest winning streak of the season, and it comes at a good time in the season.

“I think our defense has picked up significantly, and it’s getting better each game,” guard Elfrid Payton said. “It just keeps putting us in a position to win.”

After a couple of technical fouls were called on forward J.J. Davenport and on guard Bryan Mbamalu three minutes into the second half, the frustrated Cajuns channeled their anger on their play and exploded for 15 straight points to take control of a close game and took a commanding 55-41 lead with 14 minutes left.

“The technical kind of fired us up because I felt like (Arkansas State) was trying to out-tough us, like push us around,” Mbamalu said. “And they were talking trash and garbage, so it kind of fired us up and lit a fire underneath us.”

Mbamalu also had a season-best 19 points and eight rebounds, while Payton had 22 points and seven assists. Forward Shawn Long got his 14th double-double of the season (16 points, 11 rebounds) while scoring his 1,000th career point late in the game. He’s the 41st player in the program’s history to score 1,000 points in a career.

Arkansas State took the fight to UL to start the game, jumping out to a 15-4 lead thanks to a 10-0 run aided by a couple of 3-pointers by forward Kendrick Washington. But the Cajuns came back thanks to a rim-rocking slam by Payton that cut the lead to 19-14 with 7:44 left, and a couple of 3-pointers from Kevin Brown and Shawn Long helped UL to tie the game at 22 and the game remained close until halftime, tied at 32.

“They took the fight to us, we called time out to challenge the guys, and we responded,” Marlin said. “We challenged them again at halftime and responded in the second half.”

After the Cajuns took a 40-37 lead, Davenport was called for a foul down low, and he said something to the referee, which he responded by calling a technical. After the free throws, another technical was called on Mbamalu. The UL players, frustrated at the calls by the officials, were starting to lose their composure, but quickly got it back.

“Our guys wanted to win, and they didn’t agree some of the calls,” Marlin said. “And Elfrid said something to the official to slow down, and J.J. got upset. He’s an emotional young man. And Bryant got upset too, so they were showing some fight.”

A layup by Mbamalu sparked the 13-0 run, which he scored seven of the points, including a 3-pointer. He was 7-for-11 from the field and 2-of-5 from the 3-point line for 18 points in the second half.

“We got some great leadership from Elfrid and Bryant. Both those guys challenged our team and said that we’re going to hang in there,” Marlin said.

Washington and guard Melvin Johnson III led Arkansas State with 19 points each, and guard Ed Townsel had 13. But forward Andy Van Slyke, who averages 16 points per game, was held to only eight.

The win puts UL at 8-5 in the Sun Belt, trailing first-place Georgia State by three games and second-place Western Kentucky by two.