The win increased the Cajuns season-high win streak to four games and keeps the squad a half game behind Sun Belt West leader UALR heading into a showdown with the Trojans on Thursday at the Cajundome.
Clinging to a 50-49 lead inside of 11 minutes to play, Mbamalu knocked down three-point baskets on back-to-back possessions to up the lead to 56-49 before the 10-minute mark and scored a layup at 9:06 to make it 58-49.
Mbamalu gave the Cajuns (14-11, 8-3 Sun Belt) a double-figure lead at 6:50 when he followed up a missed free throw by Darshawn McClellan with a triple at 6:50 that upped the lead to 65-53. That concluded a stretch in which Mbamalu provided 11 of 15 points for UL over a four-minute stretch.
Mbamalu’s final points of the second stanza came on a tap-in with 4:08 left to play and increased the Cajuns lead to a game-high 16 points at 75-59.
UL needed all of the second-half surge from Mbamalu as the host-Trojans (7-15, 2-9 Sun Belt) came storming back with a 15-2 run following the three-minute media timeout to slice the Cajuns lead to 77-74 following a Steven Cunningham layup with 1:52 on the clock.
Mbamalu finished with a career-high 27 points after going 10-of-12 from the floor which included a 6-of-7 showing from three-point range. He bested his previous career-high of 20 set last season against Centenary.
The Trojans were paced by Will Weathers (22 points) and Justin Wright (21) points who both scored 20-plus.
Making their first appearance at Sartain Hall since the 2008-09 season, the Cajuns posted their third straight victory in their final visit to the facility as Troy moves into newly constructed Trojan Arena next season.
The Ragin’ Cajuns now turn their attention to the second round of SBC West division games to close out the regular season. Louisiana has five games remaining against divisional foes beginning with the UALR contest on Thursday at the Cajundome.
Louisiana opened the contest 5-of-6 from the field and raced out to a 10-2 lead in the first four minutes. Free throws from Kadeem Coleby on two separate trips in the 15-minute mark and an Mbamalu basket at 14:40 stretched the Cajuns lead to 14-4.
The Trojans would battle back into a 16-all tie during the eight-minute mark after taking advantage of Cajuns turnovers. Troy had scored 10 points off of turnovers at that point in the contest.
Raymone Andrews returned the lead to the Cajuns at 8:00 with a 19-foot jumper at the top of the key. Following the seven-minute media timeout the Cajuns stretched the lead out starting with a Josh Brown triple at 7:03 which made it 21-16.
UL followed up back-to-back missed three-pointers by the Trojans’ R.J. Scott with a Coleby inside basket at 6:34 and McClellan dunk off a long rebound at 6:14 to increase the lead to 25-16.
The Trojans moved within striking distance once again after Daronte Clark layups on consecutive possessions out of a timeout, the latter dropping the UL lead to 25-20 with 5:22 left in the opening half.
The Cajuns carried a 27-20 lead into the three-minute timeout, but finished the half 1-of-5 and after a Justin Wright layup with nine seconds remained the Trojans were within two points, 30-28, at the break.
Mbamalu opened the second half with a triple at 19:30 to give UL a 33-28 lead. The Cajuns went scoreless the next 2 ½ minutes of action and the Trojans rattled off a 6-0 run to claim their first lead at 34-33 by the 17:16 mark.
Elfrid Payton returned the lead to the Cajuns 15 seconds later when he drove through traffic for a layup at 17:01. Mbamalu then provided UL’s next five points burying a triple at 16:27 and converting a backdoor layup off a Brown feed at 15:53 and the Cajuns led 40-36.
Troy grabbed the lead for a second time at 44-43 following a three-point make by Jones at 13:58. Payton answered again for the Cajuns as he scored at 13:38.
Weathers gave Troy a 46-45 lead at 12:58 only to have Payton answer again hitting a 10-foot jumper in the lane at 12:37. Thompson completed a three-point play at 12:01 to open a 50-46 advantage for UL. Weathers pulled the Trojans within one, 50-49, with a layup at 10:38.