Now that they've regained the lead in the Sun Belt Conference Western Division, Louiaiana plans to stay there.

The Cajuns improved to 3-1 in Sun Belt play (8-5 overall) with Thursday's 67-53 thrashing of New Mexico State and will try to follow that with a win at Florida International at 4 p.m. on ESPN Regional TV (COX Ch. 27 in Lafayette).

Coach Donnie Marsh's FIU squad has not played since losing 55-48 at North Texas on Monday night, a setback which dropped the Panthers to 3-13 overall and 0-3 in league play.

"We'll have just one day of preparation for them," said UL coach Jessie Evans, whose team arrived in Miami Friday with an afternoon workout on tap. "I don't know that much about them because I was focused on New Mexico State."

Against NMSU, the Cajuns added to a 29-22 halftime lead to win by 14 with a downsized lineup due to Cedric Williams' ankle injury.

"We were playing on adrenaline," Evans said. "We've shown that we can play with that shorter lineup, but I'm sure it will be a different ball game the next game after Florida International has a chance to look at what we did."

Brian Hamilton led the win over NMSU with 16 points and 15 rebounds, while Dwayne Mitchell added 11 points on the smallish front line.

"We've got some tough kids inside," Evans said. "Dwayne is a horse, and we don't mind playing him at the '4' position. He's a tough guy who just wants to play."

"We knew we were undersized," Mitchell said. "But we knew we could run and gun, get up and down the floor and get quick baskets."

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Bruce Brown