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Men’s Basketball: UL wins in double overtime thriller over UALR 93-87 – 4th win in a row

Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, Feb. 14, 2014

Athletic Network Footnote:   Click here for UL vs. UALR Basketball photo gallery.

Never mind the 19-point first-half lead that was blown by the end of regulation. Don’t worry about the 3-pointer that Josh Hagins hit to force overtime. Forget about the foul called on Elfrid Payton near halfcourt with UL up by two and just 1.5 seconds remaining in the first five-minute extra session.

All the Ragin’ Cajuns will want to remember from Thursday night is that they beat Arkansas-Little Rock 93-87 in double-overtime in front of 3,624 at the Cajundome, improving their record to 16-9 while winning for the fourth straight time.

They did it behind Payton’s 23-point, 10-rebound double-double, Xavian Rimmer’s 20 points and Bryant Mbamalu scoring seven of UL’s final 10 points in the last 1:10 of the second OT.

“We had such a big lead, and down the stretch we didn’t execute like we were supposed to,” Payton said. “Missed a few free throws toward the end (of regulation), and they hit some big shots. … But it felt good to close it out and get this win.”

Payton put UL ahead to stay by hitting 1-of-2 free throws to make it 83-82 with 2:21 to go, and Mbamalu extended the Cajun advantage to three with a rebound bucket off Kevin Brown’s missed trey try.

“Bryant was huge,” said coach UL Bob Marlin, whose club continues a three-game homestand when Arkansas State visits Saturday night.

“Coach Marlin just told me to keep going to the glass,” added Mbamalu, who wound up with a season-high tying 14 points. “Kevin (Brown) shot it on the right-hand side. Usually 70 percent of the time if a ball is missed it’s gonna come off opposite, so I just went after it and it was like it just fell right into my hands.”

Twenty-six seconds later, Mbamalu nabbed a steal from DeVonte Smith and took off downcourt.

The senior swingman split two Trojan defenders for a layup and, by hitting the free throw that followed, completed a three-point play the old-fashioned way to make it 88-82.

Two more Mbamalu free-throw makes with 23 seconds left put the Cajuns up 90-82.

UALR did get an Andrew Poulter layup and a Smith 3-pointer in the final 19 seconds, but Shawn Long kept the UL margin comfy by hitting 3-of-4 freebies in the last 17 seconds.

“I think communication played a big factor,” said Rimmer, who had 15 of his 20 in the first half. “We got together; we talked about, ‘We’ve got to get this win.’ ”

UL jumped to an early 35-16 lead on UALR, which was playing with leading-scoring Will Neighbour due to an ankle sprain, also-injured senior starter Leroy Isler and – after he tore a patella tendon in Thursday’s opening half – Kemy Osse.

The Cajuns, now 7-5 in Sun Belt Conference play, led 47-35 at halftime.

Their advantage remained in double digits until Hagins hit a jumper that made it 62-53 with 8:08 left in regulation.

“I thought (Osse’s injury) gave those guys some juice,” Marlin said.

UALR (12-13, 7-6) never led in the second half, but Hagins’ 3-pointer with 48 seconds left in regulation tied it at 72.

Payton missed a jumper on the other end with 28 seconds, but blocked Hagins’ last-second shot for the win – the Cajun point finished with a career-high four blocks, including three after regulation – to force OT.

Payton banked in a long 2 over Hagins from the top of the key to make it 80-78 with 2.0 seconds left in the first overtime, then was called for a foul with 1.5 remaining that sent Hagins to the line for two freebies that forced the second OT.

Marlin didn’t want anyone to foul, but conceded that Payton “bumped him” going for the steal even though Hagins, who finished with a game-high 24 points, “would have been dead in the water” had he not.

“I felt like I hit the ball first, so the contact should have been voided,” Payton said. “But he made the call. That’s the official, and that’s how it goes sometimes.

“I was hoping he (Hagins) missed his free throws, and if not then get ready to play for another five minutes.”

Another five it was.

“Disappointed with the way we handled the ball in the second half,” Marlin said. “We didn’t move the ball. … But we did hang on and make free throws.

“We’ll take it,” the Cajun coach added. “Four in a row.”