University of Louisiana shoots 50 percent in each half, handles Louisiana Tech 84-63

BATON ROUGE - Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns men's basketball team took one of its preseason question marks and turned it into an answer here Friday night in the 2004-05 regular season opener with in-state rival Louisiana Tech.

Louisiana's biggest concern heading into the season opener was the availability of its outside shooting after the graduation of 200 of the squad's 237 three-point field goals made the season before.

A shaky exhibition performance which produced a 3-for-21 outing from beyond the arc left the Cajuns wondering if its outside shooting would be a factor this season.

The Cajuns found an early answer Friday night against Louisiana Tech by nailing 10-of-24 three-point field goal attempts in cruising to an 84-63 win over the Bulldogs in the opener of the LSU Louisiana Classic at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

UL (1-0) shot above 50 percent in both halves and its defense forced the Bulldogs into 21 turnovers. The Cajuns held Tech to just one three-pointer the entire game (1-of-12).

Tiras Wade, a transfer from East Tennessee State who sat out the 2003-04 season, scored a team-high 20 points in his Ragin' Cajuns debut. Wade made 8-of-14 field goals and pulled down seven rebounds.

Orien Greene had a solid game running the point for UL Lafayette. The senior guard dished out a game-high eight assists to go along with 18 points.

Dwayne Mitchell and Brian Hamilton each scored 11 points while Spencer Ford tacked on 10 points coming off the bench.

Tech's Paul Millsap got his points and rebounds - finishing with game-highs of 25 points and 14 rebounds - but most of it came in the second half with the Cajuns enjoying a comfortable lead.

It was the Cajuns' defense which was able to limit Millsap to just one offensive board in the opening half which proved the difference. Louisiana outboarded Tech 20-12 as it built a 47-33 edge at the intermission.

The win made new head coach Robert Lee a winner in his regular season debut.

The turning point of the opening stanza came during a stretch where the Ragin' Cajuns made 3-of-4 triples on an 11-0 run that helped turn an early five point deficit into a lead the squad would not relinquish.

UL Lafayette fell behind 11-6 five minutes into the contest as the shots weren't falling.

Orien Greene made the Cajuns' first three-pointer of the evening and combined with a basket by Tiras Wade on the next possession the game was tied 11-11.

Back-to-back three-point baskets by Spencer Ford and Orien Greene gave Louisiana a 17-11 lead at 13:15.

The Bulldogs battled back within three points getting baskets from Millsap and Corey Dean to trim the lead to 20-17.

Chris Cameron responded for the Cajuns on the next possession when he put back a miss by Greene. Cameron came up with a steal on the very next possession and sent an outlet pass to Mitchell for an easy stuff to stretch the lead to 24-17.

At the 7:50 mark, Ross Mouton connected on a three-point basket that gave UL its first double-digit lead of the contest at 29-19.

The Bulldogs hung around the rest of the half closing within seven points at 2:39 on a Millsap basket following a Cajuns turnover that made it 38-31.

The Cajuns turned the tables on the Bulldogs in the final minutes of the half.

A layup by Wayne Powell pulled the Bulldogs within nine points at 42-33 with 55 seconds showing on the clock.

On the next possession the Cajuns pulled down two offensive rebounds before Wade converted a layup to push the magin back to double-digits.

The Cajuns all but sealed Tech's fate after a turnover by Daevon Haskins with eight seconds left in the half resulted in a three-point basket by Cameron that pushed the lead to 47-33.

Louisiana Tech held the Cajuns without a field goal in the first four-plus minutes of the second half. The Bulldogs closed the gap to 51-43 on a jumper from Millsap with 15:24 remaining in the game.

UL then turned to its defense, which collected 12 steals in the contest and limited the Bulldogs to 39 percent shooting in the second frame, to trigger a 9-0 run that gave the Cajuns the comfort zone back.

Needing a basket, Greene connected on a jumper at 15:03 to give the Cajuns a 10-point edge. That was followed by back-to-back three-pointers from Wade that pushed the Cajuns lead to 59-43.

The Bulldogs would get no closer than 15 points in the final 13 minutes of the game.

With the victory, Louisiana advances to Sunday's championship game of the tournament. The Ragin' Cajuns will face either LSU or Tulane at 3 p.m. live on Cox Sports Television.