LAFAYETTE — Bryant Mbamalu compared the middle of the second half to a heavyweight fight, and he sensed the opponent was ready to take a knockout punch.
That blow was delivered by Mbamalu and the rest of the Louisiana-Lafayette offense, which outscored Louisiana-Monroe 24-0 during a five-minute stretch that gave ULL a 90-66 Sun Belt victory Sunday night at the Cajundome.
ULM never recovered as the Cajuns improved to 9-16 overall and 5-9 in the conference. The loss was ULM’s 10th straight; the Warhawks fell to 3-17, 2-12.
ULL led 54-50 with 13:13 left after the Warhawks’ Trent Mackey made a 3-pointer. After that, the Cajuns used their defense to produce transition opportunities for forwards Mbamalu and Elridge Moore.
Moore scored seven points during the five-minute span, and Mbamalu and guard Alan-Michael Thompson added six each.
Mbamalu said coach Bob Marlin told his Cajuns the game was in the balance midway through the half.
“Coach said to turn it up a notch and to play a little better defense,” he said. “We did that, and we were able to get that lead. To me, the game was at that point where it’s like a heavyweight fight, where you have the opponent on the ropes a little bit.”
Moore said while the Cajuns increased the defensive tempo, the Warhawks complied by missing shots.
“We’re a better team when we’re in transition,” he said. “(ULM) missed some baskets, and we were able to get the rebounds and that allowed us to break out with the ball.”
ULM coach Keith Richard said his team had trouble matching up with the Cajuns, especially when they were running downcourt after missed shots.
“The most important thing about that (24-0 run) is that you have to give Lafayette all the credit,” he said. “Their guards played tremendous all night, and any little mistake by us turned into points off transition. We were staying close in an ugly kind of way at that point, but they just overwhelmed us in the second half. They just had too much athleticism, too much offense and too much speed.”
Marlin said the transition game and two dozen consecutive points were generated as much defensively as offensively.
“We as coaches know about the defense and coming up with steals and stops off the stretch,” he said, “(but) I don’t remember a game where we scored 24 straight.”
Mbamalu, who didn’t start, scored a game-high 24 points. He made 4 of 8 3-point attempts and was 8 of 14 from the field.
Five other Cajuns scored in double figures: point guard Elfrid Payton (15), Thompson (12), forward Shawn Long (11), Moore (11) and guard Steven Wronkoski (10). Payton also had four steals and seven assists. Long added 11 rebounds.
Mackey led the Warhawks with 20 points. He made all but two of his eight 3-point attempts and was 7-of-11 from the field. Guard Amos Olatayo added 15 points.
Marlin said Mbamalu, a starter until he suffered a thumb injury last month, seems to enjoy coming off the bench.
“This week in practice, (Mbamalu) ran the scout team in scrimmages,” Marlin said. “And in all three, they won the game over the starters.”