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Men’s Basketball: 2015 Cajuns kept the ball rolling

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 28, 2015


They won nine of their last 11 games. They won more road games, eight, than they did in their prior four seasons with Bob Marlin as head coach. And they’ve won 20-plus games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in a decade.

In the end, the Ragin’ Cajuns did not pull off all they wanted.

But Marlin, whose Cajuns ended their season at 22-14 with an 89-82 quarterfinal-round CollegeInsider.com (CIT) loss to Evansville last Thursday night at Blackham Coliseum, was pleased with what his UL basketball team put together.

“We’ve had a good season,” Marlin said, “and I think we’ve achieved and done what we needed to do moving forward.

“We wanted to play in the NCAA Tournament; it didn’t happen,” he added. “It’s tough to get there. But I like where we are.”

After going to the NCAA Tournament in 2014, UL was bounced earlier this month from the semifinal round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in New Orleans with a loss to eventual-winner Georgia State.

Rather than return to the Big Dance, the Cajuns instead had to settle for shuffling to their second appearance in the CIT in four years.

It’s a consolation tourney for mid-major teams not making the NCAA field or the NIT.

They won their first two CIT games, both on the road, beating two Southland Conference clubs – Incarnate Word and, in a thriller last weekend that ended with point guard Jay Wright hitting a 3-pointer for the victory with 0.9 seconds to go, Sam Houston State.

Along the way, UL beat Oral Roberts in a tournament game at Las Vegas (after losing preceding games to Wisconsin-Milwaukee, at Auburn and at Tulsa).

The Cajuns beat a legit Louisiana Tech club at the Cajundome.

They rolled up 115 points in each of two back-to-back December home wins over two non-NCAA Division I programs, Centenary and Milligan College.

They won their four Sun Belt games, endured a 3-10 stretch in conference play, then closed the regular season with six straight wins.

They averaged a Sun Belt High 77.5 points and SBC-leading 39.5 rebounds per game, and they won both of their games that went to overtime, at Arkansas-Little Rock and at Troy.

The Cajuns also ended things down the stretch with a starting lineup that featured two freshmen (swingman Johnathan Stove and power forward Bryce Washington), two sophomores (juco-transfer point Wright and shooting guard Hayward Register) and a redshirt junior (Shawn Long), providing promise for the future.

Washington’s best game came in the CIT, when he scored a career-high 25 points at Incarnate Word.

Experienced combo guard Kasey Shepherd will return as a senior, as will always-hustling swingman Steven Wronkoski and hard-working backup power forward Devonta Walker.

Among those they lose are shooting guard Xavian Rimmer, who struggled in his senior season but was largely responsible for getting UL to the NCAA Tournament with this Sun Belt tourney performance as a junior, and Oklahoma State graduate-transfer small forward Brian Williams, who was starting before he missed the season’s final nine games with a shoulder injury.

Besides Long, Williams (10.1 points per game) was the only Cajun to average double-figure scoring in 2014-15.

The biggest unanswered question, at least for now, is whether Long, who averaged 16.4 points and a Sun Belt-high 10.2 rebounds per game, will go pro or return for his senior season.

Whether he’s back or not, UL will restock with newcomers including big man Scott Plaisance, who redshirted as a freshman, and guard Hassani Gravett, a signee who joined the team between semesters but did not play.

Also among the additions to come: Lafayette High point guard Corey Davis, who signed last fall, and juco-transfer guard Tyrone Wooten.

“I like our nucleus of young players,” Marlin said minutes after UL’s season ended. “We’re gonna add some more pieces, and we feel like we’ve got a good foundation.”


Final 2014-15 record: 22-14.

Home: 12-4.

Road: 8-8.

Neutral sites: 2-2.

Sun Belt: 13-2.

CollegeInsider.com Tournament: 2-1.

Biggest accomplishment: Won nine of last 11 games.

Biggest losses: SG Xavian Rimmer (3.8 points per game), SF Brian Williams (10.1 ppg).

Top returnees: G Kasey Shepherd (9.7 ppg), PG Jay Wright (9.1 ppg), PF Devonta Walker (9.4 ppg, 5.4 rebounds per game), SG Hayward Register (6.7 ppg, 39.7 percent on 3s), PF Bryce Washington (6.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg), SF Johnathan Stove (5.4 ppg), SF Steven Wronkoski (2.6 ppg).

Biggest question mark: Will PF/C Shawn Long (16.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg) return or turn pro?