LOUISIANA La. Sometimes, it's not how many times you get knocked down, it's what you do when that happens.

Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns were stunned to lose their home opener in Sun Belt Conference play last Thursday, 76-73 to South Alabama, but they responded with an inspired 21-point victory on Saturday over New Orleans.

"On Friday, we went through our toughness drills," coach Jessie Evans said. "And we started to concentrate on the things UNO would try to do.

"Our practices are very fundamental. We work on closeouts, contesting shots and getting rebounders on our backs. I wanted us to be aggressive, and I thought we responded really well."

The Cajuns took the fight to UNO, mounting a 10-point halftime lead of 38-28 and never letting the visitors to get closer than 9 points in the second half of the redemptive 85-64 victory.

That strong second half was crucial. Against USA, Evans' team was ahead 70-60 with 5 1/2 minutes to play and appeared headed for a 2-0 start in league play. But critical, late turnovers opened the door and the Jaguars waltzed through to grab the win.

This time, the Cajuns finished the deal.

"We wanted to make sure it wasn't close at the end," said senior Antoine Landry, who led all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting on Saturday.

UL went from 20 turnovers in the USA contest to 14 against UNO, an improvement but still not where Evans wants his squad to be. And the Privateers out-rebounded the Cajuns 34-29.

The rest of the story

Bruce Brown