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Cajuns Beat League Champs For Win #20

Brad Kemp/
Brad Kemp/

On Jay Wright night, the Cajuns’ lone senior once again made sure his team would be there in the end.

Wright scored 22 points to share team honors with Frank Bartley IV as the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns defeated the Sun Belt Conference regular season champion UTA Mavericks, 83-81 before 4,272 fans at the Cajundome Saturday night.

Wright hit only 3-10 shots in the first half, but connected on four of seven after halftime and made 6-8 free throws to help lead the Cajuns (20-11, 10-8 Sun Belt) to their sixth straight win.  The senior, who was honored before the game, also contributed five rebounds, five assists and three steals, while holding UTA point guard Erick Neal to ten points on 5-16 shooting, and forced the UTA guard into five turnovers.

The victory earned the Cajuns the #7 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament beginning Wednesday in New Orleans.  Louisiana will meet #10 Little Rock in their first round game at 5:00 pm.

Bartley matched Wright’s output, hitting 7-14 from the field and 4-7 from beyond the arc, while Bryce Washington notched his 22nd double double of the season with 12 points and 15 rebounds.  Johnathan Stove was the fourth man in double figures with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Kevin Hervey, the leading candidate for Player of the Year in the league, led UTA with 34 points on 11-17 shooting, and 7-9 from the bonusphere.  He also added ten rebounds.  Neal and Drew Charles were the other players in double figures with ten points apiece.

The Cajuns trailed 43-37 at halftime after UTA (24-7, 14-4 SBC) shot 50% from the field in the first half.  But Bartley scored nine points during an 18-6 run early in the second half that staked the Cajuns to a 55-49 lead wiht 15:15 remaining and the Cajuns never trailed the rest of the way.

Louisiana led by just two points, 73-71 with 3:20 to play, but Justin Miller hit a free throw, Bartley got a layup after a steal and Wright hit a pair of freebies to stretch the lead to 78-71 with 57 seconds left.  UTA trimmed the lead to 82-80 after a long triple by Hervey with :12 remaining.  Wright hit one of two free throws with just over three seconds left and the Cajuns held on for the win

The Cajuns ended the season with six straight wins while denying UTA a chance for their school record 25th win.  UTA will meet the winner of the game between #8 Coastal Carolina and #9 South Alabama.  The Mavericks will play Friday at 11:30am.

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