LAFAYETTE — With second place now unobtainable, the Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball team will try to hold onto the third spot in the Sun Belt.
Whether that occurs depends on the outcome of Saturday’s 7 p.m. game when the Cajuns visit Arkansas State.
UL-Lafayette (19-11, 10-7) lost a chance to finish in second when the Cajuns lost to Western Kentucky 75-72 on Thursday in Bowling Green, Ky.
WKU’s win gave the Hilltoppers second place and moved UL-Lafayette into a third-place tie with Arkansas State (18-11, 10-7). Saturday’s loser could drop as far as fourth; Arkansas-Little Rock and Texas-Arlington are both 9-8 entering Saturday’s games. UALR hosts UL-Monroe, and UTA visits South Alabama.
The top four seeds have first-round byes in the Sun Belt tournament, which starts Thursday at New Orleans’ Lakefront Arena.
On the first day of the tourney, the four bottom seeds play. The third- and fourth-place teams play the winners of the first round games March 14.
Georgia State has clinched first place and, like Western Kentucky, does not have to play until the third day of the tournament.
UL-Lafayette coach Bob Marlin said his team realizes the significance of playing ASU.
“We will be playing for the third seed in the tournament. In order to be third, we have to win against a tough Arkansas State team that is going to play us physical,” Marlin said following Thursday night’s game. “This team is just going to have to regroup.”
Marlin also felt his team didn’t play as well as needed against Western Kentucky.
“We didn’t guard in the first half. I think we did a good job of fighting our way back into it. We played extremely hard and we were right there,” he said. “It was a physical game where we had three of our players (Shawn Long, Bryant Mbamalu and Kevin Brown) foul out. We ended up kind of shorthanded.”
The Cajuns received 31 points and a career-high 13 rebounds from guard Elfrid Payton.
The Cajuns defeated visiting Arkansas State 85-67 on Feb. 15 as the Cajuns dominated on the boards.