From the Ragin' Cajun athletic dept.

McNeese State used a late first half run and a strong second half to defeat the University of Louisiana women’s basketball team, 65-52, on Thursday evening at Earl K. Long Gym.

The Ragin’ Cajuns (3-4) pulled within 12 in the final three minutes of the contest, but it was too late as McNeese State (4-3) snagged their second consecutive win. The Cowgirls shot 43.6 percent (24-of-55) from the field, while Louisiana hit 33.9 percent (19-of-56). On the boards, Louisiana was out-rebounded 42-to-38. UL forced 22 Cowgirls turnovers compared to just 19 for the Cajuns.

Mercedes Johnson scored a team-high 13 points, pulled in four boards and dished out two assists. Johnson’s double-digit figures streak was extended to 11 games, dating back to Feb. 20, 2010.

Also reaching double-figures was senior guard Jasmine Barnes. The Baton Rouge native hit 5-of-9 from the floor, pulling in a team-high seven boards, while dishing out an assist and a steal.

Danielle Smith came off the bench to tally seven for the Cajuns. She hit 3-of-4 from the charity stripe and corralled two boards in the process.

Cowgirls’ guard Ashlyn Baggett scored a game-high 20 points with three rebounds, two steals and an assist.

McNeese State held a 40-33 lead at the half, out-rebounding Louisiana, 24-20. Both teams shot 41 percent in the half. Barnes led the Cajuns with eight points, while Johnson had seven.

The game remained near-even in the first 10 minutes as McNeese State scored the initial basket with a jumper and a plus-one by Baggett.

Johnson hit the front end of a free throw attempt, but missed the second attempt as Barnes reeled in the board and scored to give UL a 12-8 lead at 15:04.

The game exchanged leads on a couple of more occasions once again until Oliver drained her second triple at 11:04 to give UL the 17-14 advantage.

McNeese State then proceeded on a 17-to-5 run to take a 31-22 lead over the Cajuns with 5:27 left.

Kemi Rotibi’s layup inside the lay cut UL’s deficit to seven with less than a minute and half remaining. Rotibi finished the game with four points and three rebounds.  

Barnes hit a jumper with 49 seconds left in the half to trail 35-30. With 30 seconds left, Rotibi drained two free throws at the line, as Louisiana pulled within three.

McNeese State drained a three with 17 seconds to go. Rotibi hit another freebie for UL, but Baggett followed on the other end to add another two points from the line to give McNeese a seven-point advantage at the half.

The Cowgirls started on a 20-to-6 run in the second half.  Louisiana was held scoreless until the 14:09 mark when Barnes hit the back-end of a free throw.

Nicole Morris banked a three at 13:28 to cut UL’s deficit to 51-37. Barnes hit a fade-away jumper at 12:38 to make it a 14-point game. Morris finished with three points and tied a career-high with seven rebounds.

Johnson added a jumper at 9:20 to cut the Cowgirls’ lead to 57-41. McNeese State hit a couple of more from the free throw line, while UL followed with three more from the stripe to pull within 16. A jumper by Johnson made it a 60-46 game with 6:30 left.

Josie West’s two-point basket at 5:18 helped the Cajuns pull within 12 with 5:18 left in the game. Baggett added a pair of buckets to help the Cowgirls re-take a comfortable 16 point lead with less than five minutes remaining.

Louisiana pulled within 14 with a jumper from Johnson at 3:22. Smith’s fade-away cut UL’s deficit to just 12 with 3:09 left in the game.

UL couldn’t shake off the Cowgirls in the final three minutes as McNeese State pulled out the 65-52 victory.

The Ragin’ Cajuns (3-4) will face another in-state foe on Sunday, Dec. 5. Southeastern Louisiana (5-1) will come to Earl K. Long Gym for a 2 p.m. tip-off. Live stats and video will be available online at Ragin Cajuns.com.