Short Handed Cajuns Down RedWolves 61-56

Playing without Bryant Mbamalu and with only seven scholarship players dressed, Louisiana out hustled, outgunned and outmanned first place Arkansas State 61-56 before 3,040 at the Cajundome Saturday.

Shawn Long led Louisiana (7-12, 3-5) with 17 points while Elfrid Payton and Kasey Shepherd each contributed 13. Josh Soto finished with 8 points, while Steven Wronkoski and Elridge Moore added five each.

Trey Finn paced Arkansas State (10-7, 4-4) with 15 points, Cameron Golden added 13 and Kelvin Downs scored 12.

"I'm proud of them," coach Bob Marlin said of his squad. "They're fun to coach.

"We changed defenses several times tonight and it paid off. It was good to lead at the half," Marlin added.

Long opened scoring for the Cajuns, making a three point shot from nearly the exact spot on the floor where his double overtime buzzer-beater rimmed out Thursday evening.

After a quick bucket and trey from the visitors, Payton converted a hoop-and-harm to give the Cajuns a 6-5 lead that the home squad built to a 15-7 advantage after consecutive threes from Shepherd and Soto.

The Cajuns held the lead for the next seven minutes until Townsel deposited a free throw to tie it at the 7:32 mark.

The Red Wolves' rally was courtesy of four scoreless trips down court, a questionable goaltending call, and a lapse at the free throw line where the young Cajuns failed to take full advantage of the opportunities afforded them.

But the home team spent the final seven minutes of the first half rebuilding the lead it lost as Payton, Moore and Long turned the tables on the visitors.

Louisiana got a three pointer from Payton and a free throw from Long to exit for the locker room with a 33-24 lead; the home team returned to the floor with purpose, pushing its lead to 38-26 before ASU head coach John Brady called a time out.

Brady, who spent the first five minutes of the opening half running roughshod over the officials, couldn't have been pleased with the way the young Cajuns were taking it to his lackluster performing group in either half, but there wasn't much he could do about it.

Brady's bunch tried pressing after the timeout, but the Cajuns broke it easily as Long punctuated a beautiful pass from Payton with a thundering dunk.

The home team pressed back after Long's exclamation point, and extended its lead when Moore banked a layup to make it 42-29 with 13:52 left.

Brady called another timeout and a slop-fest ensued as the teams frantically jockeyed for an advantage. The ensuing media timeout a minute later finally gave both squads a chance to calm down with the Cajuns maintaining a 44-38 advantage.

Shepherd's wide open three with 5:20 remaining gave the Cajuns a 57-45 lead, and the desperate Red Wolves wasted excellent offensive rebounding by bricking several three point attempts before Kendrick Washington laid in a bucket with four and a half minutes left.

The clearly exhausted Washington fouled out two minutes later, a victim of a determined Long, who had worked him like butter all night long.

And since it was Saturday night in the Sun Belt, the officials made a mess of the final two minutes, but the Cajuns prevailed in spite of the zebra curse.

When it was over, the youngsters had made a mess of their more experienced opponents, who limped back to Jonesboro the victim of a more determined home team that shot only 38.5 percent for the game from the floor.

Louisiana begins a road trip at Western Kentucky Thursday, before winding up at Middle Tennessee next Saturday.
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