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Western Kentucky 76, Louisiana Lafayette 70
Posted: Wednesday March 06, 2002 04:50 AM
Louisiana Lafayette
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Western Kentucky
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Bowling Green

NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Western Kentucky made it exciting for a second straight night.

Chris Marcus scored five straight points in the final 92 seconds as No. 21 Western Kentucky clinched its second straight Sun Belt Conference title with a 76-70 triumph over Louisiana-Lafayette.

After winning at the buzzer on Monday, Western Kentucky (28-3) came out misfiring and was down 36-31 at the half. The Hilltoppers still trailed, 65-64, with 3:51 to go and were tied, 68-68, with 1:32 remaining.

But Marcus took over, scoring his only five points of the second half when it mattered most. Marcus' basket with 92 seconds left snapped the tie and he came up with a block and rebound 39 seconds later.

Patrick Sparks found Marcus for a three-point play with 32 seconds to go for 73-68 advantage and Derek Robinson sealed the win with three free throws down the stretch.

"When (Marcus) gets the ball deep in the post and your behind him, you have to let him get a shot," Louisiana Lafayette center Michael Southall said. "You are really not going to block his shot when he is there." Western Kentucky has won 18 straight games and has not lost since December 30.

Southall has 16 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks for Louisiana-Lafayette (20-10).

"I thought we were a young team that came out and played really hard," Louisiana-Lafayette coach Jesse Evans said. "I thought we did the things that we worked on. I couldn't be prouder of a group of guys." Western Kentucky raced to a 13-4 lead 4:24 into the contest. Robinson had eight points in the spurt but Louisiana-Lafayette responded and scored 14 of the next 17 points to take the lead.

Robinson's third 3-pointer of the half forged a 25-25 tie but Darryl Robins had a basket, Kenneth Lawrence a layup and Robert Jupiter a 3-pointer in a 7-2 burst. Louisiana-Lafayette took that five-point edge into the half.

Western Kentucky made just 12-of-34 shots in the first half, including 3-of-14 from 3-point range.

Louisiana-Lafayette committed just four turnovers in the first half and made half of its 32 shots.

"We weren't doing the right things in the first half and they really outhustled us," Robinson said. The Ragin' Cajuns extended their lead to 47-40 with 12:17 to go but Sparks buried 3-pointers 32 seconds apart to get the deficit to a point. After Anthony Johnson buried two free throws with 11:35 to play, Filip Videnov sank another shot from beyond the arc for the Hilltoppers and the game was tied.

"We challenged our team to get tougher in the second half," Western Kentucky coach Dennis Felton said. "We just told our guys to get more physical and not allow them to push us around in the second half." "We went into the locker room at halftime and really got on each other," Robinson said.