WKU loses on final possession as Louisiana-Lafayette plays six players

Freshman forward George Fant (center) shows frustration immediately after their overtime loss against Louisiana-Lafayette after realizing that the Ragin’ Cajuns had six players on the court for a play that resulted in the game-winning basket. WKU lost 72-70.

Cole Claybourn

Louisiana-Lafayette might have gotten away with one Thursday night against WKU.

The Ragin’ Cajuns had six players on the court for the very last play in overtime, which allowed guard Elfrid Payton to score on a layup with 3.6 seconds left to give ULL (8-8, 2-0 Sun Belt Conference) a 72-70 win over WKU (5-11, 1-2 Sun Belt Conference) — just its sixth win all-time in Bowling Green and its first road win of the season.

WKU Head Coach Ken McDonald and players rushed to the officials after the game was over pleading for a review, but the call was apparently not reviewable.

Athletics Director Ross Bjork even had words for officials Roger Ayers, Reinaldo Acosta and Brad Gaston as they exited the floor.

As mass confusion and anger set in for WKU and fans, the Ragin’ Cajuns celebrated off the floor to a chorus of boos.

McDonald said he noticed the extra players “at the very end.”

“We can’t take it back,” McDonald said. “The thing you hurt for is for the guys because they fought so hard. For it to end not five-on-five for whatever reason, whatever the rule is, that’s what you hate.”

If the officials would have noticed, they could have blown the whistle and called ULL for a technical foul.

Bjork alerted the referees as they exited that there were six players on the floor for the last play, but the referees had no reply to Bjork, Associate Athletic Director Todd Stewart said.

Bjork declined further comment after the game was over.

John McElwain, Associate Commissioner for the Sun Belt Conference, said his understanding was that that particular play was not a reviewable call.

“The clock hit zero, the officials conversed briefly and that point in the game was decided,” he said.

McElwain said he spoke with Commissioner Wright Waters Thursday night and determined that the first course of action would be to have Director of Officials Mike Wood review the tape and meet with the officials. 

McElwain could not comment on the future of the officials as far as suspension or termination was concerned. He said the film would be reviewed within the next 24 hours.

“Anything that comes out of that review — can’t say yet whether that will be handled internally or if we will issue a further statement,” he said. “For now all I can really say publicly is that they’ll review it and they’ll talk about it.”

Meanwhile, freshman guard Derrick Gordon, who finished with 20 points to lead all scorers, said the game should have been over before that play was even an issue.

“We all just can’t say, ‘Oh yeah, six players on the court.’ We had a lot of opportunities to win the game,” he said. “I wish they would’ve went back and looked at it, but, I mean, it didn’t work out that way.

“A couple crucial turnovers, bobbling the ball, the same players going after the ball, we losing it, they getting it back. And free throws. We had a lot of opportunities to open up the game.”

WKU trailed by as many as seven midway through the second half but regained momentum when junior guard Jamal Crook scored on an outlet pass. That was followed by Gordon taking a charge, forcing ULL Head Coach Bob Marlin to lose his cool, resulting in a technical foul.

But WKU only managed one free throw out of the technical foul sequence and trailed 53-49 with just under seven minutes to play.

A 15-footer from Gordon gave WKU a 60-59 lead with 2:30 left.

Payton tied the game at 62-62 after a made free throw with 6.9 seconds left. Crook then took the inbounds after a timeout call and went coast-to-coast getting a pretty good look at the basket for a layup. He drew contact but no foul was called and the game went into overtime.

“I went up, I thought I kind of got fouled,” Crook said. “The way I was leaning, they kind of hit me. I should have finished it. Definitely. No way I shouldn’t have finished that.” 

Down by three with 30 seconds left, Gordon buried a three-pointer to tie the game at 70 before ULL scored the game-winning basket.

Crook added 18 points and six rebounds in 39 minutes, while senior guard Kahlil McDonald had 12 points. 

ULL guard J.J. Thomas had 19 points and nine rebounds to lead the Ragin’ Cajuns, while Raymone Andrews had 16 points and seven rebonds.

WKU now has quick turnaround with another home game slated for 4 p.m. Saturday against Troy.

Ken McDonald said he likes his team’s mentality heading into Saturday’s game despite the negativity and rumors about his coaching future.

“We just talk about being positive,” he said. “The first year I was here, no one thought we were going to be very good. That team had an attitude about them that they were going to prove people wrong. 

“I think our guys are starting to do that.”