LAFAYETTE, La. - University of Denver freshman forward Royce O'Neale (Killeen, Texas) recorded his first career double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds, but the Pioneers lost a 72-71 nail biter in overtime against Louisiana-Lafayette at the Cajundome on Thursday night.
"I thought it was a really good college basketball game, but unfortunately for us, we came out on the losing end of it at the buzzer," head coach Joe Scott said. "We have to learn from it and move on, because there's a lot of basketball to be played in February and March."
With the score tied and 1:24 left in overtime, junior guard Chase Hallam (Mesquite, Texas) scored on a put back to give the Pioneers (16-7, 6-4 SBC) a two-point lead.
ULL's Elfrid Payton tied it again on a layup with 15 seconds remaining. Denver worked for the last shot, but the Ragin' Cajuns (13-11, 7-4 SBC) forced a turnover, and Payton was fouled with 0.4 seconds remaining. Payton hit the first free throw to give ULL the victory.
Sophomore forward Chris Udofia (Irving, Texas) had 12 points and a game-high five assists, while senior forward Rob Lewis (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and freshman guard Brett Olson (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Trailing by two late in the second half, Denver regained the lead on a three-point play by Lewis with 9:08 remaining during a series where ULL sent the Pioneers to the line on four of five possessions.
The Ragin' Cajuns settled down defensively after that and were not called for a foul in the final 6:17 of regulation and all of overtime.
The Pioneers built a four-point lead at the 4:30 mark, the largest margin for either team in the final 10 minutes, but ULL tied the game three more times over the ensuing three minutes.
Denver had the ball for the final shot of regulation, but Kadeem Coleby blocked a shot by Udofia with eight seconds to go, and the Ragin' Cajuns smothered shot attempts by Olson and O'Neale after they pulled down offensive rebounds.
Denver struggled shooting the ball, finishing the night 26-of-66 (39.4 percent) from the field, 5-of-14 from three-point range and a season-low 60.9 percent (14-of-23) from the free throw line.
The first half featured four ties and three lead changes, but a tip at the buzzer by O'Neale gave DU a 33-30 lead at the break.
Josh Brown led Louisiana-Lafayette with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Payton added 20 points.
Denver returns to Magness Arena to take on SBC-leading Middle Tennessee on Saturday at 2 p.m. MT. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2, and can be heard live on Pioneer Vision, Mile High Sports Radio AM 1510 or FM 93.7, and via a live blog available at DenverPioneers.com.