LAFAYETTE — It was a chain reaction type of Saturday night at the Cajundome for the Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball team.
The Cajuns’ sticky halfcourt defense caused missed shots and created transition offense that yielded a cascade of easy baskets as UL-Lafayette ended a three-game Sun Belt Conference losing streak with a 66-50 victory over Louisiana-Monroe.
“We challenged our guys (on Friday) to come out and play solid defense (on Saturday night), and I thought our defense was just outstanding and we were able to build on that,” Cajuns coach Bob Marlin said.
The Cajuns scored all but 16 of their points inside the paint as guard Elfrid Payton outraced the Warhawks defense down the floor and put in layups in transition.
When Payton, who made 13 of 14 field goals, wasn’t dropping in easy points, the Cajuns used offensive rebounds to convert.
Marlin complimented Payton, who had 28 points, and the Cajuns’ other guards for their performances.
“Our guards were sensational,” he said. “Kevin Brown, (Bryant Mbamalu) and Payton got to the rim all night. I thought Elfrid was just fantastic. He missed setting a school record (for field goal percentage) by one shot, and I probably messed him up on that.”
UL-Lafayette improved to 13-9 and 4-5 in the SBC. ULM dropped to 7-10 and 4-5.
“We were determined not to lose after we lost three in a row,” Payton said. “It had to be done, and it had to be done tonight.”
ULM coach Keith Richard said the Cajuns’ aggressiveness defensively caused his team problems.
“The real story of the game was Lafayette really got after us on defense. The last seven minutes of the half, we struggled to put it in,” he said. “I thought we struggled to score when we need to keep (the ULM lead) alive. We just couldn’t keep it close.”
Richard said the type of game that developed suited Payton’s capabilities.
“When he does that, (Payton) is hard to stop because he’s so fast. We gave up too many points in the paint in order for us to win,” Richard said.
UL-Lafayette forward Shawn Long, who did not start after being held out of the Cajuns’ 80-69 loss at Arkansas-Little Rock on Thursday, finished with 12 points and as many rebounds. Long had only two points after playing 14 first-half minutes, but Marlin said he told Long that more production was needed in the final 20 minutes.
“I challenged (Long) to come out along the boards and get some dunks in the second half, and he did that,” Marlin said.
Long had several second-half dunks off missed shots and feeds underneath by Payton.
The Cajuns ended the first half with a 12-1 run to lead 24-21 at halftime.
Forward Marvin Williams dropped in a layup to give the Warhawks a 20-12 advantage with 7:05 remaining, but ULM didn’t score another field goal.
The Cajuns made only one of their first seven attempts as the lead changed hands six times in the first eight minutes.
UL-Lafayette’s offense became more dominant midway through the period as Payton scored the Cajuns’ last 15 points. Payton’s layup with 10:11 enabled the Cajuns to pull within 13-11. ULM responded with a 3-pointer from point guard Nick Coppola that gave the Warhawks a 16-11 lead.
In the second half, the Cajuns never surrendered the advantage. But the Warhawks made it close when guards Kyle Koszuta and Daniel Grieves sank four consecutive 3-pointers.
Grieves’ 3 cut the deficit to 45-39 with 10:33 remaining. But after that, the Cajuns stretched their advantage to 12 twice in the final six minutes.