Cajuns Earn Trip to Sun Belt FInals by Beating WKU, 73-72
There's an old saying it's difficult to beat a team three times in one season.
Last night the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns got past UT Arlington for the third time this season.
But on Saturday, the Cajuns made sure they wouldn't be on the receiving end of the trifecta.
Elfrid Payton's layup with 1:16 to play gave the Cajuns the lead for good, and WKU failed to score on their last two possessions as the #3 seeded Cajuns earned a trip to the Sun Belt Championship game, beating the #2 seeded Hilltoppers, 73-72.
Louisiana (22-11) will now face regular season champion Georgia State in the championship game Sunday at the UNO Lakefront Arena with tipoff scheduled for 12 noon.
WKU (20-12) fought back after falling behind by ten points in the second half and took the lead, 70-69 on Chris Harrison-Docks' third straight three pointer. But the Hilltoppers made just two of six free throws the rest of the way.
After Payton's layup gave the Cajuns the lead, O'Karo Akumane missed two free throws. The Cajuns worked the clock down, but Payton was short on a 12 footer and WKU had one more chance. T. J. Price drove down to the right baseline, but his shot bounced off the rim and the Cajuns corralled the rebound as the horn sounded.
Payton and Bryant Mbamalu each scored 23 points for the Cajuns. Payton added seven rebounds, nine assists and three steals. He was 11-15 from the field. Elridge Moore had one of his best games in a Cajuns uniform, scoring eight points, with seven rebounds, three blocked shots an assist and two steals in 36 minutes. He did not turn the ball over.
The Cajuns' Shawn Long played just 19 minutes because of foul trouble. He scored nine points with three rebounds before fouling out. Despite Long's absence,the Cajuns out rebounded WKU 33-27. The Hilltoppers were tops in the league in rebound margin going into the game.
George Fant and T. J. Price each scored 16 for WKU, with Brandon Harris adding eleven.
The win was the tenth in the last twelve games for the Cajuns, who will now try to keep the Panthers from beating them three times in the same season. GSU won 77-70 in Lafayette and 80-77 in Atlanta. The winner will get the Sun Belt's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.