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Men’s Basketball: UL’s last NCAA appearance was memorable

Daily Advertiser, March 21, 2014

In some record books, the game never took place, because it was later proved that the UL Ragin’ Cajuns were playing with an ineligible player.

Those who both witnessed and survived the game, however, certainly remember it.

It was the 2005 NCAA Tournament and the No. 13 Ragin’ Cajuns gave No. 4 Louisville under Rick Pitino all it wanted, before the Cardinals claimed a 68-62 victory at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tenn.

Coach Robert Lee’s Cajun squad twas within a point at halftime, trailing 33-32, and held a 55-54 lead with five minutes remaining in the contest before bowing out of the tournament with a 20-11 season record.

It was a thrilling finish to Lee’s first season as UL’s head coach, and a better performance than the Cajuns turned in last year in losing 61-52 to North Carolina State in NCAA play under similar circumstances.

“Congratulations to Louisiana-Lafayette,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “We knew it. Our players knew it. They’re a very, very good team, and we’re proud of this win. I knew we weren’t getting a breather.”

A Spencer Ford basket had the underdogs within 58-57 with 2:54 to play, but Louisville’s Otis George slipped inside for a tip-in for his team’s final field goal.

Then the Cajuns’ Dwayne Mitchell fouled Francisco Garcia (27 points) on a 3-point attempt and the Cardinal guard calmly sank all three charities to make it 63-57 with 1:54 to go.

But Lee’s Cajuns didn’t come this far to fold, and Chris Cameron found Brian Hamilton for an outlet pass dunk and Tiras Wade hit a pair of free throws at the 1:11 mark to bring Louisiana within 63-61.

In between, Mitchell was called for a travel driving to the basket.

“When they called me for fouling the guy (Garcia) off a screen, I felt I didn’t foul him,” Mitchell said. “Then they called me for traveling and I felt I didn’t travel.

“There’s nothing you can do about that. All you can do is just keep playing.”

In all, the Cajuns were called for seven fouls in the final 3:43 of action to three for Louisville.

The momentum from the near-miss, however, was later derailed when it was learned the Florida transfer Orien Greene was actually not eligible.

The violations involving Greene’s eligibility concern correspondence courses he took in Fresno, Calif. Correspondence courses may not be used for eligibility purposes, but distance-learning courses – courses taught online witho direct contact with instructors – may be used.

The violations for both the 2004 spring semester and the 2004-05 season resulted in UL vacating both NCAA Tournament appearances during the Greene era.