Wednesday , Mar , 10 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Cajuns return to NCAA Tournament

Bowling Green, KY (Sports Network) – Antoine Landry scored a game-high 16
points as Louisiana-Lafayette won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament
championship with a 67-58 victory over New Orleans at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Brad Boyd and Cedric Williams each added 15 points for the top-seeded Ragin’
Cajuns (20-8), who earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and won 20
games in a season for the third consecutive year. Chris Cameron chipped in 10
points and six rebounds, as UL-Lafayette won its fourth tournament title and
claimed an NCAA Tournament berth for the eighth time.

Johnell Smith paced the third-seeded Privateers (17-14) with 11 points, as
they failed in their quest for the third NCAA bid in school history. Kyle
Buggs had 10 points in the losing effort.

“We have nothing to hang our heads about,” Smith said. “We were playing for
the championship.”

The Ragin’ Cajuns held a narrow lead during the early stages of the second
half before they were able to open a 51-42 advantage on a Landry three with
8:38 remaining.

Smith combined to hit three free throws on New Orleans’ next two possessions
to bring the Privateers within six, but that was the closest they would get.

UL-Lafayette followed by going on a 9-2 run, keyed by a Landry three, to hold
a 60-47 edge with 3:57 remaining.

“Our defense really came through,” said UL-Lafayette head coach Jessie Evans.
“I knew our offense would come. We had to continue to make stops on the
defensive end.”

New Orleans scored the next four points to get back within nine, but the
Ragin’ Cajuns went back up by 13 on two Cameron foul shots and a Chris
Williams layup at the 1:14 mark.

The Privateers were forced to foul the rest of the way, but UL-Lafayette
sealed the win by knocking down 3-of-4 foul shots in the last 30 seconds.

“I don’t think we played as well as we could play,” New Orleans head coach
Monte Towe said. “But a lot of that was because of Lafayette.”

With the win, UL-Lafayette took the season series from the Privateers by a 2-1
advantage. Both teams split the two regular season contests, with each winning
on its home floor.

New Orleans used seven early points from Smith to take a 10-6 lead eight
minutes into the contest. But the Privateers went the next seven minutes
without a field goal.

The Ragin’ Cajuns, who missed their first six three-point attempts, responded
by making six of their next eight threes to take a 27-19 lead with three
minutes left until halftime.

The Privateers outscored UL-Lafayette 11-6 the rest of the half to get within
three at 33-30 at the intermission.

“We’ve got a three-point lead and if we’re going to lose this game, we’re
going to lose it on the defensive end,” Evans told his players. “Let’s go out
and try to shut them out. Let’s let the game end 33-30.”

UL-Lafayette will be making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since
2000, when it lost to Tennessee in the first round.