Mbamalu Shines in Second Overtime as Cajuns Win Fourth Straight
Bryant Mbamalu’s senior season hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. The Houston, Texas guard missed the first twelve games of the season with a fractured foot and hasn’t been the offensive force he was a season ago. But Thursday night, for the most important five minutes of the game, he was the best player on the court.
Mbamalu scored seven points, snagged three rebounds and had a steal in the second overtime period to lead the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns to a 93-87 win over Arkansas-Little Rock before 3,624 at the Cajundome.
The win was the fourth straight for Louisiana (16-9, 7-5 Sun Belt) and moved them into sole possession of fourth place in the league standings.
With the Cajuns holding a one points lead, 83-82 in the second extra period, Mbamalu snagged an offensive rebound and scored to give the Cajuns a three point lead. On the ensuing possession, the senior got a steal and drove in for a basket and was fouled. He hit the free throw to make it a six point game with :41 left. That flurry took just 29 seconds. Following a miss by Mareik Isom, Mbamalu was fouled and made both free throws to make the score 90-82. Shawn Long then made three of four free throws in the last 23 seconds to ice the win.
UALR (12-13, 7-6), playing without two starters, including leading scorer WIll Neighbour, made a valiant comeback after trailing by as many as nineteen points in the first half. Louisiana led 47-35 at halftime, and still had a double digit lead, 64-53 after two Steven Wronkoski free throws with 7:45 to go. But the Trojans went on a 12-4 run to cut the lead to 68-65 with 3:08 left.
Elfrid Payton made two of four free throws after a DeVonte Smith three pointer to give the Cajuns a four point lead with :52 seconds left, But Smith made a free throw and Josh Hagins drilled a three pointer to tie the game at 72 and force the first overtime.
No one led by more than two in the first overtime and Louisiana was looking good after Elfrid Payton banked in a shot with :02 left, breaking 78-78 tie. The shot was ruled a two point shot after a lengthy look at the monitor. UALR had one last chance and Payton was called for a late foul on Hagins, who calmly made both free throws to force the second extra stanza.
Hagins led UALR with 24 points with 17 coming in the second half and overtime periods. Smith added 16, Marius Hill scored a career high 15 and Ben Dillard added ten.
For the Cajuns, Payton was the high scorer with 23 points. Xavian Rimmer had fifteen of his 23 points in the first half, while Mbamalu tied a season high with 14 points.
The Cajuns shot 47.3 percent from the floor on 26-55 shooting. UALR shot 41.6 percent, but took 22 more shots than the Cajuns, hitting 32-77. Both teams shot 68 percent from the free throw line, but the Cajuns outscored UALR by 16 points at the charity stripe hitting 33-48, compared to 17-25 for the visitors, who had five players foul out and played the last ten seconds with only four players.
Louisiana continues its three game homestand Saturday night against Arkansas State at 7:15 at the Cajundome in the first of two meetings between the two schools.