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Basketball: ‘New’ theme steals show in Cajundome debut

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, Dec. 3, 2016

In so many ways, it was fitting.

The opening performance of the newly renovated Cajundome and it certainly wasn’t the same old story for either the UL men’s or women’s teams as they combined to make it a triumphant debut in the exciting new facility.

The women got things started with a 74-55 win over Xavier, followed by a glittering 101-69 win for the men over Nicholls State.

"It was a great night to open the Dome," UL men’s coach Bob Marlin said. "(During construction) I tried to stay out of the arena as much as I could. But when we walked onto that court tonight, it was an amazing feeling. The crowd was super. The atmosphere was electric."

And it wasn’t the old Cajundome veterans like Bryce Washington, Jay Wright or Johnathan Stove that seemed to be the most ignited by the new atmosphere. There was significant impact from some new sources.

Junior transfer Frank Bartley’s first game was tremendous with 19 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the 3-point land, along with three assists and four steals.
"It just has the feel of an NBA arena," Bartley said. "The fans are close and more involved."

Scott Plaisance only played eight minutes, but produced 10 points, four rebounds and an assist.

"I wanted to get into the game as much as possible," said Plaisance, who said his play was lifted by the energy from the crowd of 4,982. "Everybody wanted to play tonight. Everybody was itching to get out there.

"The atmosphere was unbelievable out there tonight."

Freshman P.J. Hardy only played 15 minutes, but contributed 12 points, a rebound, an assist and a block. Marlin said Hardy got in late because he was late for practice with car trouble on Wednesday.

"P.J. came in and hit a quick three," Marlin said. "That was good. He had a solid game. He shot the ball well. He’s really played steady for us."

Freshman Jerekius Davis had his best performance. In addition to nail the 3-pointer that vaulted the Cajuns into triple digits, he finished with 10 points and five rebounds in just 17 minutes.

The theme was very similar on the women’s side. Coach Garry Brodhead’s crew had a new and unexpected leading scorer in Gabby Alexander with 15 points and nine rebounds. Troi Swain added 10 points and seven rebounds.

"It’s nice," Swain said of the new Cajundome. "That’s not your typical Sun Belt gym."

For Alexander, it was special winning on grand-opening night.

"The new Cajundome is very nice," Alexander said. "It was great to be the team to get the first win in the new Cajundome."

Brodhead said he vividly remembers the original opening of the Cajundome back in 1986.

"I was one of the first fans in it," Brodhead said.

"It’s (new Cajundome) awesome. It’s more impressive in quality now. It’s a basketball arena. For our program just to be included (in UL historical timeline on wall) is just huge for us."

And if the energy that the Cajundome’s new intimate feel continues to spark UL’s play on the floor, Thursday night might just be a more dramatic new beginning than any of us ever realized.