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Sun Belt Recap: Western Kentucky Tops Ragin' Cajuns

In what's been a heated rivalry through the years, Western Kentucky may have struck a final blow defeating the Ragin' Cajuns 79-70 in Lafayette.

George Fant carried the Hilltoppers to a win over Louisiana-Lafayette
George Fant carried the Hilltoppers to a win over Louisiana-Lafayette

Western Kentucky 79, Louisiana-Lafayette 70: George Fant scored 25 points as the visiting Hilltoppers knocked off the Ragin' Cajuns in front of nearly 5,000 fans at the Cajundome. With the win, WKU (13-7, 5-2) moves into second place in the Sun Belt standings. They are now 4-0 in Sun Belt road games this season. The Cajuns fell to 12-8, 3-4. With Western Kentucky leaving the Sun Belt after this season, this may have been the final Hilltoppers/Cajuns regular season clash in Lafayette for quite awhile.

The Hilltoppers showed great resolve in getting this big win. Early in the game, it was all Cajuns. With seven minutes to play in the first half, the Tops trailed 27-17. They battled back, sparked by Trency Jackson off the bench. Jackson scored eight of his 17 points during a 20-5 spurt that gave Western a 37-32 halftime lead.

Western continued the run to start the second half. Fant quickly scored the first six points and suddenly WKU had a double digit lead and was seemingly in complete control. A pair of three pointers by Chris Harrison-Docks, who scored 18 in the game, gave Western a 57-41 lead with just under 13 minutes left to play.

That is when the Cajuns awoke, and a sudden comeback ignited the Cajundome crowd. ULL got a layup from Shawn Long, a steal and a layup from Kevin Brown, then a blocked shot by Long that led to a Brown three pointer. Long then got a steal which led to a three pointer by Bryant Mbamalu and the Cajundome exploded as the Cajuns were back within six at 57-51.

That is when things got really heated, as is the norm when these two teams get together. With Western in danger of another turnover against the Cajuns press, Head Coach Ray Harper called for a timeout. Cajuns Coach Bob Marlin, apparently not realizing a timeout had been called, was yelling and pointing in Harper's direction because Harper was on the court. Harper did not take kindly to that and started yelling back at Marlin. The two coaches then approached each other near the half-court line and had to be restrained by players and other coaches. Both Harper and Marlin received technical fouls but this set the stage for the final 10:56.

The teams traded points for a couple minutes until a Mbamalu jumper pulled the Cajuns within two at 61-59 with 6:53 to play. That is when the Hilltoppers showed that resolve once again scoring the next seven points. Fant converted a three point play, Harrison-Docks hit a jumper, then Fant again got free on the block for a layup. WKU had the lead back to nine and would coast the final four and a half minutes.

Elfrid Payton scored 16 points, with six assists, five rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Long scored 13, adding 11 rebounds, four blocks, and two steals in the losing effort.

Georgia State 66, Louisiana-Monroe 58: Georgia State won their 11th straight game and remained unbeaten in the Sun Belt, improving to 14-6, 7-0. ULM controlled tempo and actually led for much of this game, until a 6-0 GSU run tied the game at 53 at around the five minute mark. ULM made just two field goals the rest of the way as GSU pulled away. The Panthers were able to survive a terrible shooting night from star R.J. Hunter. Hunter scored 13, but shot just 5-for-15 (3-for-11 from three.) Ryan Harrow scored 18 to lead the Panthers. Tylor Ongwae had 27 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Warhawks.

Arkansas State 77, Little Rock 49: Melvin Johnson III scored 21, Kendrick Washington scored 16 with 11 rebounds, and Kirk Van Slyke scored 15 with eight rebounds as the Red Wolves blasted their in-state rivals in Jonesboro. UALR standout Will Neighbour scored just one point on 0-of-12 field goal shooting.

Texas-Arlington 73, South Alabama 65: A 12-3 run with about five minutes remaining surged the Mavericks into the lead and they never looked back. Reger Dowell scored 21 points off the bench while Brandon Edwards had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the victors. South Alabama was led by Antoine Allen's 18 points. The Jaguars shot 37 three point attempts, making 11.

Texas State 73, Troy 65: Emani Gant scored 21 and Joel Wright added 16 points and 12 rebounds in the win for the Bobcats. Troy's Westley Hinton scored 24 in the loss.