State basketball: ULL opens Sun Belt tourney Friday

Louisiana-Lafayette will test its men’s and women’s basketball teams against their counterparts from North Texas to open the Sun Belt Conference tournament Friday in Hot Springs, Ark.

The eighth-seeded ULL men (12-19) face No. 9 seed North Texas (12-19) at 6:30 p.m. at Convention Center Court. The Ragin’ Cajuns finished third in the Sun Belt’s West Division; the Mean Green, the preseason favorite, ended up fourth in the West.

ULL swept the season series, prevailing 80-76 on Dec. 1 in Denton, Texas, before winning 105-74 on Jan. 31 in Lafayette. Friday’s winner takes on top-seeded Middle Tennessee at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

On the women’s side, No. 11 seed ULL (9-20) faces No. 6 North Texas (11-18) at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Summit Arena. North Texas has won the teams’ past four meetings, and ULL is seeking its first victory in the tournament since 2007.

The winner of Friday’s games takes on No. 3 seed Western Kentucky at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Tulane

WOMEN EYE SLICE OF TITLE: The Tulane women carry a four-game winning streak into Friday’s regular-season finale, when they’ll face UTEP at 8 p.m. in El Paso, Texas.

But more than extending that streak will be at stake: With a victory, Tulane can score a share of the Conference USA title.

Rice’s 58-46 home upset of SMU on Thursday night dropped the visitors to 12-4 in conference play. Tulane (22-6, 11-4) can net a share of the league title with a victory against UTEP.

Forward Whitney Bibbins (University) leads Tulane at 12.4 points per game, and guards Danielle Blagg guard Olivia Grayson follow at 10.7 and 9.4. UTEP (19-9, 7-8) has lost three in a row.

Thursday’s men’s games

New Mexico State 78, Louisiana Tech 60: In Las Cruces, N.M., Daniel Mullings scored 23 points as New Mexico State snapped Louisiana Tech’s 18-game winning streak, which had been the longest in Division I.

The Bulldogs (26-4, 16-1 WAC) must win at Denver on Saturday to clinch the regular-season title. If Denver wins, the teams will be tied and RPI will determine which team gets the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.

Mullings added eight rebounds for the Aggies (20-10, 13-4). Raheem Appleby led Louisiana Tech with 13 points.

Southeastern Louisiana 79, M c Neese State 68: In Hammond, Brandon Fortenberry scored 11 of his 23 points during a key, late stretch to lift Southeastern.

Fortenberry scored his 11 as the Lions (11-17, 9-8 Southland) outscored the Cowboys 13-5 in the final five minutes to blow open what was a 66-63 contest.

Southeastern snapped a four-game losing streak and avenged a 65-58 loss from Feb. 19.

Craig McFerrin led McNeese State (12-16, 6-11) with 18 points.

NICHOLLS STATE 90, LAMAR 63: In Thibodaux, a 19-0 run in the first half let Nicholls State gain a lead that grew to as many as 37 points in the second as the Colonels crushed Lamar.

Fred Hunter had 23 points for Nicholls (9-19, 8-9 Southland). Dantrell Thomas added 21, JaMarkus Horace had 16 and T.J. Carpenter chipped in 14.

Rhon Mitchell had 15 to pace Lamar (3-27, 1-16).