LOUISIANA – Sophomore guard Elijah Millsap (Grambling, La.) poured in a career-high 26 points and had Louisiana on pace for its second home victory of the season. However, a late UAB rally proved to be the difference as the Blazers squeaked past the Ragin’ Cajuns 78-72 in overtime Tuesday night at the CAJUNDOME.
Louisiana (1-3) suffered its third straight loss on the young season, while UAB (5-3) won for the third straight time.
Millsap went 10-of-22 from the field, while hitting 3-of-4 shots from three-point range. The sophomore also added five rebounds to his career total. Freshman Chris Gradnigo (Lake Charles, La.) tallied 14 points and four rebounds, while Courtney Wallace (New Orleans, La.) chipped in a season-high nine points.
UAB’s Walter Sharpe led the Blazers with 23 points, while Robert Vaden added 19 points.
UAB outscored the Ragin’ Cajuns 9-3 in the final period to take the road victory. Randell Daigle’s (Lafayette, La.) three-pointer with 1:50 on the clock in overtime tied the game at 72 all. But, it was not enough as the Blazers held off the Cajuns for the win.
Clinging to a five-point advantage at the start of the second half, Louisiana looked to be in the driver’s seat for its second victory of the season. The Cajuns’ lead would reach 40-34 early on in the second stanza, but an 8-3 UAB run silenced the home crowd as the Blazers pulled to within one, 43-42, with 16:42 remaining in regulation.
After a 30-second timeout, Millsap hit three straight jumpers, while David Dees (Dayton, Ohio) added another to aid the Cajuns on an 8-2 run to take a 50-44 lead.
However, the Blazers would not back down. The visitors cut the Cajuns’ lead to two points, 54-52, on a Lawrence Kinnard three-pointer at the 11:36 mark. UAB would continue hang close despite Louisiana’s suffocating defense.
UAB held the lead for the time since the 7:11 mark of the first half when it took a 61-60 edge with 4:02 remaining in the second half. However, that lead lasted just 29 seconds before Gradnigo drained a triple from the corner, giving the Cajuns a 63-61 lead.
The Blazers then tied it up at 63 apiece on a Sharpe free throw at the 3:10 mark. Gradnigo would later again give the lead back to UL on a two-pointer.
Louisiana stormed out of the gate to an early 8-2 lead before UAB responded with a quick 7-0 run to take its first lead of the contest, 9-8, at the 16:07 mark. However, a Millsap triple from the left side of the arc handed the lead back to the Cajuns, 11-9.
UAB would continue to fight back as the Blazers would soon regain the lead, pouring in six straight points for a 15-11 edge. Wallace followed with a lay-up in the paint to cut it to two points. After a Brandon Dison (New Orleans, La.) free throw, Millsap gave the lead back to the Cajuns, sinking both freebies.
The Cajuns eventually extended their lead back to six points, 31-25, just before the final media timeout of the first half. Louisiana’s lead quickly diminished as UAB pulled to within one, 31-30, with 2:34 remaining until halftime.
Louisiana then closed out the half on a 6-2 run to take a 37-32 advantage into the locker room.
Millsap led all scorers with 17 points in the opening stanza, going 6-for-10 from the floor, including 3-for-3 from three-point range. Millsap’s 17 are the most by a Cajun in a half since he scored 17 against North Alabama in the season opener.
Wallace added nine points, while Gradnigo chipped in six points and three boards.
Louisiana held UAB’s leading scorer Vaden relatively quiet in the first half as the junior went 1-for-6 from the field with three points. Sharpe paced the Blazers offensively with 10 points and five rebounds.
Senior point guard Maurice Barksdale (Baltimore, Md.) made his first start of the season and his first since Jan. 23, 2006 when the Cajuns hosted New Orleans at the CAJUNDOME.
Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball team will return to action Friday when it travels to Knoxville, Tenn., to face No. 11 Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. (CT) and the game will be televised on Sports South TV.