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March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Sun Belt Quarterfinals Recap

Recap by Zach Van Hart

No. 1 Louisiana Lafayette 84, No. 8 South Alabama 58
The Ragin’ Cajuns looked every bit of the top seed in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Tournament, whipping the Jaguars 84-58. While they are known for their offensive production, Louisiana Lafayette’s defense was the catalyst for the win. They forced eleven first half tournaments and held South Alabama to 36 percent shooting. After the Jags pulled within one point, 17-16, halfway through the first half, the Cajuns turned up the heat on both sides of the ball. They finished the rest of the half on a 28-10 run and were never tested during the second half.

Dwayne Mitchell, the Sun Belt Sixth Man of the Year, led the Cajuns with seventeen points and was one of six players in double figures. Mitchell was also tied for the team lead in assists, with five. Louisiana shot 59.3 percent from the field and dished out nineteen assists while only turning the ball over ten times. With thoughts lingering from several early exits now gone, it appears the Cajuns are primed for a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Louisiana Lafayette will now await the winner of Sunday’s Middle Tennessee State versus Western Kentucky match.

No. 2 Arkansas-Little Rock 83, No. 7 Arkansas State 78
With the season on the line and his Trojans about to go down against their rivals, Arkansas-Little Rock’s Brandon Freeman took matters into his own hands. The junior hit a game-tying three-pointer with three seconds remaining in regulation. The triple forced overtime and in the extra session, the Trojans held on for the 83-78 overtime win. Freeman scored a career-high 31 points to lead Little Rock. It appeared the Indians had the game sewed up late, but missed free throws set up Freeman’s heroics.

After failing to lead during the entire second half, the Trojans grabbed took the lead with early during the extra session and took the lead for good on a Darius Eason jumper with 2:19 to go. Freeman was one of four Trojan players to score in double figures. Dewarick Spencer and J.J. Montgomery, Arkansas State’s two First Team All-Sun Belt players, scored 38 combined points but struggled with their shots. They combined nine for 26 from the field and were aided by Montgomery’s 14-of-17 performance from the free-throw line. The Trojans out-rebounded the Indians by seven and went seven of seventeen from the beyond the arc. Little Rock will now await the winner of Sunday’s New Orleans versus North Texas game.

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