LAFAYETTE — Turnovers and missed free throws proved costly for the Louisiana men’s basketball team Tuesday night as the Ragin’ Cajuns dropped a 66-61 decision to Robert Morris at the Cajundome.
Louisiana (4-8) connected on just eight of its 17 attempts from the free throw line in the contest, including the front end of one-and-one situations on multiple occasions, and committed 17 turnovers.
Like the Cajuns previous outing, the opposition benefitted from three-point shot, as the Colonials (8-4) connected on 13-of-27 shots from beyond the arc compared to a 3-of-19 showing by Louisiana.
The loss was the second straight to RMU by UL in a two-year, home-and-home agreement. It was the first-ever meeting at the Cajundome.
Louisiana remains at home for a Saturday contest with Duquesne — the second straight Pittsburgh-based school to visit the Cajundome this week. Tipoff is set for 7:05 p.m. All seats that are available for purchase (100, 200, 300 level) are being offered at a discounted price of $5 with half the proceeds benefitting United Way of Acadiana.
Bryant Mbamalu paced the Ragin’ Cajuns with a season-high 21 points, while Shawn Long recorded his sixth double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Karvel Anderson registered 17 points to lead Robert Morris.
It was a back-and-forth contest the entire first half as the two teams battled through four lead changes and the score was tied four times.
The Cajuns led for the opening five minutes of the stanza as Mbamalu caught fire and scored seven points, including a three-pointer at the 16:44 mark to give the Cajuns a 9-8 lead.
The first half remained tight until the final three minutes as the Colonials went on a 7-3 run, including a three-pointer by Velton Jones with 28 seconds remaining as Robert Morris headed into the break holding on to a 40-34 advantage.
Mbamalu and Elfrid Payton paced the Cajuns at the half, scoring 11 points apiece.
The Cajuns came storming out of the gates to open the second half scoring five unanswered points, including an old-fashioned three point play by Shawn Long to trim the RMU lead, 40-39.
The Cajuns would rally to tie the game at 45-45 (14:40) on a Shawn Long tip-in. UL would take its first lead since the first half (48-47) on an Mbamalu three-pointer with 13:51 left. The lead would grow to 52-47 (12:40) before RMU countered, taking a 56-52 lead (8:02). Louisiana could come no closer than three down the stretch.
The remainder of the game was close, but every time the Cajuns seemed to gain momentum, the Colonials had an answer.
After an Alan-Michael Thompson lay-up, the Cajuns trailed by only three points, 59-56 with 3:38 remaining. Coron Williams and Mbamalu would exchange three-point baskets, but a final trey by Karvel Anderson put a dagger to the Cajuns hopes as the Colonials finished off the victory with free throw shooting and defense.
Payton contributed 19 points, including seven rebounds and three assists.
Louisiana held a 37-35 edge in rebounds. Of the Cajuns’ 17 turnovers, 10 were the result of a RMU steal paced by four from Vaughn Morgan.
BANK SHOTS: Bob Marlin changed up the starting five for the first time in eight games, starting freshman Josh Soto in place of Elridge Moore … The lineup was the fourth different starting five this year … After Houston went 14-for-28 from three-point against UL on Saturday, RMU shot .482 from three-point (13-27), including 7-14 in the first half … Louisiana struggled from the charity stripe, going seven-for-15 in the first half (.467) and 8-for-17 for the game (.471) … The Cajuns still had a scoring advantage from the stripe, 8-5, with RMU attempting just nine free throws … Louisiana shot well from two-point (22-36, .611() but was just 3-19 (.158) from three-point.
Despite turnovers being 17-16 in RMU’s favor, Louisiana had a 20-6 edge in points off turnovers…Bryant Mbamalu recorded his seventh double digit scoring game of the year, netting a season-high 21 points … Elfrid Payton (19 points) scored in double figures for seventh straight game (and 11th time in 12 games) … The Sun Belt leader in both assists and steals, he added 3 assists and 2 steals ... Louisiana dropped consecutive games for the first time since the three-game losing streak that started at New Mexico State (Nov. 23) and ran through Middle Tennessee (Nov. 29) … Louisiana lost for only the 11th time in 34 outings at the Cajundome under Bob Marlin’s direction ... The Cajuns, who wrap up non-conference play on Saturday vs. Duquesne, are now 3-7 in non-conference play this season.
ROBERT MORRIS (8-4) Anderson, Karvel 7-11 0-0 17; Williams, Coron 5-12 1-2 16; Jones, Velton 4-9 0-0 11; McFadden, Mike 3-4 2-2 8; Johnson, Russell 2-6 1-3 6; Myers-Pate, Anthony 1-2 0-0 3; Jones, Lucky 1-5 1-2 3; Morgan, Vaughn 1-5 0-0 2; Appolon, David 0-4 0-0 0; Hawkins, Stephan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-58 5-9 66
LOUISIANA (4-8) Mbamalu, Bryant 9-14 0-2 21; Payton, Elfrid 8-17 3-7 19; Long, Shawn 5-7 2-3 12; Wronkoski, Steven 2-6 1-1 5; Thompson, Alan-Micha 1-5 0-0 2; Moore, Elridge 0-1 2-4 2; Shepherd, Kasey 0-2 0-0 0; Soto, Josh 0-3 0-0 0; Lazare, Braylon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-55 8-17 61