Mbamalu, Payton pace ULL over Arkansas-Little Rock

LAFAYETTE — Bryant Mbamalu and Elfrid Payton provided the shooting accuracy that guided the University of Louisiana at Lafayette into a first place tie in the Sun Belt West Division in men’s college basketball Saturday night at the Cajundome.

Mbamalu and Payton combined for 38 points, and the second-half rebounding of Shawn Long did the rest as ULL defeated the University of Arkansas-Little Rock 79-70 before 2,436 fans.

In the women’s game, ULL defeated UALR 56-54 in double overtime.

ULL (6-9) and UALR (8-7) are both 2-2 in the Sun Belt Conference.

Mbamalu, a junior guard, was 9-of-14 from the field and provided a pair of key 3-pointers in the second half as the Cajuns erased a three-point UALR halftime lead.

“I got a few layups early in the game and that got me going. Elfrid is so strong and aggressive that he was able to get me the ball,” Mbamalu said.

Payton, a sophomore point guard from Gretna, scored 12 points, making five of his 12 field-goal attempts. Payton also had a team-high six assists.

Long, a freshman forward from Morgan City who transferred from Mississippi State, ended the game with 10 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds. Nine of Long’s boards came in the second half.

UALR basketball coach Steve Shields said the combination of Mbamalu, Payton and Long were too much for his team.

“Long is such a focal point for the defense. He’s a 6-foot-9 post, and it takes so much effort and energy, that it opens up other things. Then you have Mabamalu and Payton who are so hard to guard,” Shields said.

Mabamalu scored five of the Cajuns’ first seven points during the first three minutes of the first half. That early stretch enabled ULL to regain the lead that was not surrendered the rest of the game.

The Cajuns grabbed a couple of eight-point leads in the second half, the last with 6:54 remaining when guard Josh Soto connected on a 3-pointer from just beyond the top of the key.

Will Neighbour had 17 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Trojans. Guard Josh Hagins, a freshman from Bossier City’s Airline High, had 14 points.

ULL coach Bob Marlin gave his bench credit for lifting his team, especially in the second half. Guard Alan-Michael Thompson scored 13, while Soto had eight.

“This was a good win for our team. We beat a UALR team that leads the conference in scoring defense and field-goal defense.

“I thought we shot well (49.1 percent from the field), and our defense was good. We held UALR pretty well from the field (31.3 percent).

The Cajuns made all 10 free throws during the final 1:14.

“It really feels good to close out a game like that, making those free throws with such a young team like we have,” Marlin said.

UALR trailed 24-11 midway through the first half, but the Trojans outscored the Cajuns 26-10 during the final nine minutes to lead (37-34) at the intermission.

The Trojans implemented a zone defense with 7:33 left in the half and the strategy seemed to bother the Cajuns, who sank just five field goals the remainder of the way.

UALR also had the advantage at the free-throw line. During the first half the Trojans made 18-of-20, while the Cajuns sank just 2-of-4.

ULL 56, UALR 54 (2 OT): Brandi Schambough’s 3-point shot with 30 seconds remaining in the second overtime were the final points for the Cajuns (7-6, 1-3).

“The coaches told me to get ready to shoot. I just didn’t think about it. I just let it fly.

“It’s a big win for us. We were 0-3 in the conference, and it’s also our first win (this season) at the Cajundome,” Schambough said.

Schambough scored 10 points, while forward Ashley Benjamin led the Cajuns with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

ULL trailed 27-23 at halftime, but the Cajuns controlled the early part of the second half with a 13-0 run. During that span, UALR was 0-for-20 from the field.

The Trojans (10-2, 3-1), launched a scoring cascade of their own after that and pulled within three points (40-37) with 2:55 left.

UALR tied the game at 43 on a Taylor Gault field goal with 47 seconds to send the game into the first overtime.

The first overtime ended with the teams tied at 47. UALR’s final points of that period came when forward Hannah Fohne,who played at Walker High, made the front end of a one-and-one with 26 seconds left.

ULL had two chances to win the game after that, but Schambough and point guard Keke Veal each missed layups in the final two seconds.

Gault provided UALR with a three-point lead in the second overtime, 52-49, with 2:05 left in the final overtime. The Cajuns responded with an Ashley Benjamin layup at 1:36 and a put back by Jasmin Mills at 1:02 to lead 53-52.

The Trojans claimed their final advantage at 54-53 with 44 seconds left on a Jakeisha Wells eight-foot shot, but the Cajuns provided a key defensive stop after that. The rebound after the UALR miss was sent down to Schambough, who took the shot in front of the Cajuns’ bench.

Gault, who scored a game-high 15 points, missed UALR’s final shot with 3.7 seconds remaining.

“I really take a lot of pride in this win. We came out and played hard and to win it at the end like this, is a statement,” ULL women’s coach Gary Brodhead said.