Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns put forth an inspired effort on Thursday night at The Super Pit in Denton, Texas, against North Texas, but it was not enough as the Mean Green captured a 65-57 victory.
UL (13-15, 10-7 Sun Belt) had just eight players and played without second-leading scorer Chris Gradnigo (14.0 ppg).
NT (20-8, 12-5 Sun Belt) took the lead with 13:36 remaining in the game and never looked back. The hosts were 14-of-21 (67 percent) from the floor in the second half. UL shot just 33 percent (11-of-33) in the second stanza and 37 percent in the game.
The Cajuns closed to within three points at the 4:38 mark and with 3:30 left, both times on a three-pointer by Tyren Johnson.
Two free throws by Randell Daigle with 2:51 remaining pulled UL within three, again, but NT countered with a triple by Josh White and a layup by Eric Tramiel to take a 62-54 lead with 91 seconds left.
Shannon Shorter added three free throws in the final minute to ice the game.
Johnson led the Cajuns with 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. It was the 12th, 20-plus point outing for Johnson who moved over 500 points for the season with the tally. He's the first player since Ross Mouton and David Dees in 2006-07 to eclipse 500 points in a season.
Daigle finished with 16 points, four rebounds, three steals and one assist. Travis Bureau score nine, but on other Cajun score more than four.
Tristan Thompson led four NT players in double figures with 16 points. George Odufuwa had 13 points and a game-high 11 boards.
The loss ends the Ragin' Cajuns chances at the Sun Belt West division title. It was the sixth consecutive defeat for UL at The Super Pit (5-8 all-time in arena).
Tied at 34-34, the Cajuns lost the ball on three straight possessions and the Mean Green scored seven unanswered points.
Leading 50-46 with 7:39 remaining, NT had connected on 10-of-14 (71 percent) shots in the second half. The Cajuns were 8-of-20 (42 percent) from the floor at that point.
The game was even on the scoreboard after the first half and nearly identical on the stat sheet as well. The teams were tied in field goals and rebounds, with similar totals in assists, turnovers and steals after 20 minutes.
The Cajuns started the game by outscoring the Mean Green 17-6. UL's defense held NT to 1-of-11 from the floor in the first 11 minutes. Johnson and Daigle both had two field goals, combining for nine of the Cajuns 17 points.
As the Cajuns lost their offensive rhythm, North Texas found the bottom of the net. An identical 17-6 run by the hosts over the final nine minutes tied the game at 23-23 at the break.
The Ragin' Cajuns finish the 2009-10 regular season on Saturday at Denver. Tip is slated for 6 p.m. (CT) at Magness Arena and the contest will be televised live on Fox Sports Rocky Mountain.
-- Ragin' Cajuns --
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