Men’s Basketball: Cajuns comeback sinks Georgia State
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, January 8, 2015
Before playing Georgia State on Thursday night, UL coach Bob Marlin had three goals for his Ragin’ Cajuns.
One was to win the battle of the boards. Another was to have fewer turnovers. The last was to hold the Panthers to less than 40 percent shooting.
UL managed just one of the three.
But that didn’t prevent the Cajuns from beating Georgia State, as UL rallied from a 17-point first-half deficit for an 84-80 victory that went to the wire in front of an announced season-high 4,531 at the Cajundome.
"The way we started," Williams said of UL’s fans, "they had all right to leave, and then we started picking it back up, and they stuck with us."
Kevin Foote: Cajuns overcame many obstacles
With the win in what was a rematch of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament title game that UL won in overtime last March in New Orleans, sending the Cajuns to the NCAA Tournament, Marlin’s 10-5 club won its fourth straight and for the seventh time in its last eight outings this season.
The Cajuns also improved to a league-leading 4-0 in Sun Belt play with their second victory in four meetings over the last two seasons against Georgia State, which fell to 9-6 overall and 2-2 in the SBC despite 27 points from R.J. Hunter and 25 by Ryan Harrow.
UL – which out-rebounded Georgia State 28-26, but committed two more turnovers and won despite allowing the Panthers to shoot 54.2 percent from the field – got double-digit scoring from all five of its starters.
Small forward Brian Williams scored a team-high 20 points while dealing with Hunter much of the night, and Shawn Long had a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double.
Devonta Walker had 15 points, including four key free throws in the decisive last minute, and shot 5-for-6 from the floor.
Jay Wright added 13 points while shooting 3-of-4 on trey tries, and Kasey Shepherd scored 10 despite just 3-of-11 field shooting.
But that was only after a really rough beginning for the Cajuns, who are now idle until visiting Georgia Southern next Thursday night.
UL twice trailed by as many as 17 in the first half, the last time with just under six minutes to go before the break.
"The game started off; we made a poor decision. Jay (Wright) tried to lob one that wasn’t there," Marlin said. "And we turned it over a couple times, then we got stagnant and we didn’t move against their zone."
But with the Cajuns making their last six shots of the opening half, including 3-pointers by Wright and Shepherd, and with Georgia State making just two of its final 7 shots following a stretch in which it hit 14-of-19, UL opened the second half trailing by just one at 41-40.
"Defense sparked us," Marlin said. "The crowd was great. … They got into the game, and really gave us some momentum."
"We finally got it together at the end of the first half," Williams added, "and we came out the second half playing like we should play."
The Cajuns took their first lead of the game when Walker opened UL’s second-half scoring with a first-minute dunk.
Both teams went on to lead by as many as six points during a game in which the lead changed hands five times, the last time in the final minute.
UL went ahead for good when Walker hit a pair of free throws with 51.9 seconds to go to make it 78-77, and that started a stretch in which the Cajuns sealed it by converting 8-of-8 at the foul line – 4-of-4 by Walker, including two more with seven seconds left to make it 82-79; 2-of-2 by Shepherd; and 2-of-2 by Williams with 0.1 seconds left.
Williams’ final pair came after Hunter made one free throw with 4 seconds left to make it 82-80 UL, then missed his second freebie.
Kevin Ware rebounded Hunter’s miss and put the ball back up, but it didn’t fall and Long grabbed the rebound as time wound down.
"We won it at the free-throw line at the end," Marlin said. "The guys executed, and they made free throws down the stretch."