Western Kentucky tops ULL, 79-70

University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin Cajuns’ Shawn Long, a Morgan City High School alum, prepares to shoot a free throw during Saturday’s 79-70 loss to Western Kentucky at home. Long finished with a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Look for an article on Long’s progression during his time in Lafayette in Tuesday’s paper. (The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute)

George Fant scored eight of his game-high 25 points in a 26-3 run and WKU held off a late rally to earn a 79-70 victory against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns in a nationally-televised Sun Belt Conference matchup Saturday at the Cajundome.
Chris Harrison-Docks added 18 points with Trency Jackson chipping in with 17 as Western Kentucky (13-7 overall, 5-2 conference) erased a 10-point deficit in the first half and built a 16-point lead in the second before pulling away with a 7-0 run after Louisiana-Lafayette (12-8, 3-4) cut the lead to 61-59 on a jumper by Bryant Mbamalu with 6:05 remaining.
In the first half, the Cajuns pulled away from a 14-12 lead with a 10-2 run as J.J. Davenport connected on a pair of baskets before Steven Wronkoski and Xavian Rimmer each hit 3-pointers for a 24-14 lead with 10:15 remaining in the first half. Davenport added another bucket for a 31-21 lead at the 4:29 mark before the Cajuns would go cold from the floor.
ULL missed 11 of their next shots while WKU went 9-for-13 from the field.
Fant, who finished 10-for-14 from the floor, began the run for the Hilltoppers with bucket inside with 3:48 remaining before starting a stretch of 21 straight points by Western Kentucky with a pair of free throws with 2:28 left in the first half.
Jackson added a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer for Western Kentucky, with Harrison-Docks connecting on a pair of free throws and Aaron Adeoye putting the Hilltoppers ahead for good, 34-32, with a layup with 49 seconds remaining.
After leading 37-32 at halftime, WKU opened the second half with a 17-6 run capped by a pair of free throws by Jackson for a 54-38 lead with 14:06 remaining.
But the Cajuns refused to go away as they went on a 21-7 run and ignited a season-high crowd of 4,998.
Rimmer, who scored 10 points, made one of two free throws, and Elfrid Payton scored on a driving layup that cut the lead to 54-41 with 13:22 left.
After Harrison-Docks sank a 3-pointer for the Hilltoppers, the Cajuns went on a 12-0 run to cut the deficit to 57-53.
Morgan City High alum Shawn Long, who recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, hit a jumper in the lane before Kevin Brown added a layup and 3-pointer to get the Cajuns to within 57-48. Mbamalu added a 3-pointer for the Cajuns, and Brown connected on a pair of free throws to close the gap to 57-53.
A 3-pointer by Mbamalu with 6:51 remaining cut the Hilltopper lead to 61-59, but Fant would respond with five points in a 7-0 run that gave Western Kentucky a 68-59 advantage.
Payton led the Ragin’ Cajuns with 16 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals. The junior increased his career total of assists to 400, moving past Johnny Collins (399, 1982-83) into eighth-place on the Cajuns list, while his three steals increased his career total to 167, tying him with Aaron Mitchell (167, 1988-91) for third.
Mbamalu added 13 points for the Ragin’ Cajuns, who finished 23-for-60 (38.3 percent) from the floor and 19-for-26 (73.1 percent) from the free throw line.
The Cajuns will return to Sun Belt Conference action beginning Thursday at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock in a 7 p.m. contest before returning home to host the University of Louisiana-Monroe in a 7:15 p.m. contest Feb. 1.
Tickets are available by calling the Cajundome Box Office at 337-265-2100 or at www.RaginCajuns.com.

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