Cajuns Outlast Denver in OT, 72-71
If Denver's in the Cajundome, it must be overtime.
For the third time in four years, the Denver Pioneers and Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns battled into overtime and, just as in the past, Louisiana prevailed, winning Thursday night at the Cajundome, 72-71.
Freshman Elfrid Payton scored the final of his career-high 20 points after being fouled with 0.4 remaining. After making the first free throw, he missed the second on purpose.
The Cajuns (13-11, 7-3 Sun Belt) trailed by three points at halftime, 33-30. It was the first time Louisiana has trailed at home at the half all season.
Senior Josh Brown led the Cajuns with 21 points. Payton added 20 and Kadeem Coleby scored 11 to pace the Cajuns. Denver (16-7, 6-4) was paced by freshman Royce O'Neale with a career high 21 points. Chris Udofia added 12, Rob Lewis had eleven and Brett Olson chipped in 10 for Denver.
The Cajuns held Denver's leading scorer, Brian Stafford, without a field goal. Stafford scored three points, all on free throws.
Louisiana also held Denver to just five baskets from three point range. Denver came into the game averaging nine made threes per contest.
Louisiana took an early four point lead, but Denver led by as many as seven in the first half. The Cajuns cut the lead to one point, but O'Neale's tip in off a Chase Hallam miss gave the visitors the three point edge.
Neither team led by more than four points in the second half.
Denver missed three opportunities to win the game in regulation after blocking a Josh Brown layup that would have given the Cajuns the lead.
The Pioneers led by two in the final minute of overtime, but Payton hit a layup to tie the game at 71. The freshman was fouled on the play but missed the ensuing attempt at the three point play and Denver had a final chance.
But the Pioneers turned the ball over on a Raymone Andrews steal, and the junior hit Payton with the outlet pass. The freshman drove to the bucket and missed, but official Brad Stodghill called a foul on Olson as time expired. After consulting the monitor, .4 seconds were put back on the clock. Payton, who was shooting only 44 percent in league play from the free throw line, hit the first one to give the Cajuns the win. Counting the intentional miss that followed, Payton finished 6-9 from the free throw line.
The Cajuns are now 3-0 in overtime games this season. Denver is 0-3.
Louisiana's win, combined with North Texas' loss to Middle Tennessee, puts the Cajuns alone in second place in the western division of the Sun Belt, one half game behind Arkansas-Little Rock, who was idle tonight.
The Cajuns now head to Troy to take on the Trojans Saturday night at Sartain Hall in Troy, Alabama. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30pm.
For more, including a final box score, click here.