Cajuns Clinch SBC Tournament Bye

LAFAYETTE, La. – The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns hit 22-for-23 from the foul line, including 17-for-17 in the second half, and held off a UALR squad that wouldn't go away, 75-69, on Thursday night at the Cajundome.

The win was the fifth in a row for the Cajuns (18-12, 12-7 SBC), its longest win streak of the season. Louisiana also clinched the No. 4 seed in next week's Sun Belt Conference Tournament, a seed that assures the Cajuns a bye into the tournament quarterfinals.

The Cajuns will play at 5:00 p.m. at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, La., against the winner of Thursday's opening-round meeting of the No. 5 and No. 8 seed.

Devonta Walker led UL with 15 points and five rebounds on the night, hitting 9-of-10 from the foul line, including going 8-for-8 from the stripe in the final 33 seconds to help stave off the Trojans (13-17, 8-12 SBC).

But Walker was one of just 10 Cajuns in the scoring column with every player seeing the court, getting at least one bucket. Jay Wright reached double figures for the fifth straight game with 14 points, while Shawn Long just missed a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds.

Steven Wronkoski added eight points off the bench, and Johnathan Stove scored seven while also dishing out a team-best five assists for the second straight game.

The Cajuns shot 40.7 percent for the game, but finished with 18 more rebounds than the Trojans, including eight more on the offensive glass. Meanwhile, UALR was able stay close by taking advantage of 13 Cajun miscues, owning a 21-8 edge in points off turnovers.

Aaron LeBlanc, getting the start on Senior Night, delivered the first bucket of the game for UL, but the Cajuns were not able to take the lead until a three-point play from Xavian Rimmer as part of an 8-0 run that put them ahead 13-9. UL then got hot from three-point range with their next three field goals coming from beyond the arc, part of five made threes in the opening half, and led 22-15 after the first of two from Hayward Register.

But UALR stayed close throughout the half, despite shooting just 37.9 percent, with a steady dose of short scoring spurts of their own. Still, the Cajuns held as much as a six-point lead late in the half and scored the final four points of the period on a layup from Walker and free throws from Wronkoski to take a 32-27 lead into the break.

In the second half the Trojans managed to erase the Cajun advantage, tying things at 37-37, four minute in on a three from J.T. Thomas. But Long responded with the next five Cajun points, including the first of four-second-half threes for UL, to quickly put the Cajuns back in front.

The teams then traded 5-0 spurts again before a pair of free throws from Long gave the Cajuns a seven-point lead, their largest of the game with 10:09 to play. Despite that advantage, Louisiana was never able to completely put the Trojans away.

Free throws from Josh Hagins cut the UL lead to just 65-61 with 2:04 remaining, but despite going just 4-for-11 from the floor it was Long that was the go-to hand on the next Cajun possession, getting a layup from the right block for the final Cajun field goal of the night to push the lead back to six.

Hagins then connected on a three on the Trojans next trip down the floor, cutting the lead in half; however, Walker then went to work at the foul line, scoring the next eight Cajun points at the foul line to seal the win.

Louisiana will now close out the regular season on Saturday in Jonesboro, Ark. when they take on Arkansas State at the Convocation Center.


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