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Men’s Basketball: Loss that snaps UL win streak won’t soon be forgotten

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, February 14, 2016



UL’s power forward Bryce Washington dunks in Saturday’s loss to Arkansas-Little Rock at the Cajudome.(Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE, THE ADVERTISER)



Down by three points after Roger Woods made two free throws with 14.2 seconds to go, UL’s Johnathan Stove had just the sort of situation he – any baller, really – savors.

Time was winding down and he was given an opportunity to drive to the basket and – if he could make the basket, draw a foul and hit the free throw that followed – tie the game.

Or, if the defense collapsed, he could always dish to a teammate for an open trey try.

Instead Stove lost the ball on a crossover in the paint, a mad scramble ensued, Hayward Register missed on a deep desperation trey try with two seconds left and Arkansas-Little Rock beat the Ragin’ Cajuns 68-64 in front of an announced 5,347 on Saturday at the Cajundome.

“Coach (Bob Marlin) told me to get to the rack and get fouled,” said Stove, who finished with a team-high 18 points to go with Shawn Long’s 12-point, 12-rebound double-double and Bryce Washington’s 10 points. “He (Marlin) felt like I could get an and1 on Woods – just power over the top of him.”

That was the plan, at least.

“That play is gonna haunt me for the longest,” said the sophomore from Baton Rouge’s Christian Life Academy in. “I had a play like that in high school – and it scared me, you know what I mean?”

The loss – 14-9 UL’s first in 12 home games this season – ended the Cajuns’ win streak at nine and prevented them moving into a tie with UALR atop the Sun Belt Conference standings.

Little Rock, the nation’s leader in scoring defense at just 58.4 points per game permitted going into the game and now the only Sun Belt team to sweep UL this season, improved to 22-3 overall and 12-2 in league play.

“We got off to a poor start,” Marlin said, “and the pace of the game and the flow of the game didn’t go the way we wanted it to, and that played right into their hands.

“Nothing went right for us. … They caught some breaks, and were fortunate to come out of here with a win.”

UL trailed 38-27 at halftime, matching the Cajuns’ lowest output in a first half this season – along with 27 in a non-conference loss at Miami.

It didn’t help that UL couldn’t get outside shots to fall, hitting 3-of-19 from behind the arc including 1-for-12 in the first half.

“We didn’t shoot well in either half,” Cajun senior Steven Wronkoski said. “But I think our defense picked up in the second half. We got some stops we needed to make, and made some plays on offense we needed to make.

“We didn’t shoot like we wanted to, but we fought, and that’s what kept us in the game.”

Little Rock extended its lead to 13 with a layup to open the second half from Josh Hagins, who scored a team-high 18 points that included 7-for-11 field shooting with 3-of-3 from 3-point range as Stove, Jay Wright and Kasey Shepherd all took shots at guarding him.

Both Hagins and Woods, who finished with 14, frequently drove at will, and Hagins had fortune on his side as evidenced by a second-half 3-pointer that fell only after he turned and fired over Jay Hedgeman as the shot clock was about to expire.

UL point guard Jay Wright dribbles to the basket in

UL point guard Jay Wright dribbles to the basket in UL’s loss to Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday the Cajundome. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE, THE ADVERTISER)

“Hagins got comfortable,” Wronkoski said, “and when he gets comfortable he’s hard to guard.”

“He hit some shots,” Stove added with reference to Hagins, who is from Bossier City’s Airline High. “He’s a good player. I remember playing against him in high school. He hit shots like that all the time.”

Still down 13 with just more than four minutes left, UL got back into with a run ignited by back-to-back Wronkoski 3-pointers that bookended a Hagins layup.

Elijah McGuire’s bucket with 27 seconds remaining made it 65-64 UALR, and UL fouled Woods hoping the 64.7 percent free-throw shooter would miss at least one of two.

He hit both, making it a three-point game and prompting a timeout in which Stove was given the green light.

“We felt like he could get to the basket and draw a foul … or kick it out for a 3,” Marlin said.

Stove was, after all, 10-for-10 at the free-throw line to that point.

What wound up happening, however, was not at all what he had in mind.

“I crossed over, and (Woods) was sitting there waiting on it,” Stove said. “He got a hand on it, and it just bounced on my knee. … I wasn’t low enough when I crossed over, that’s for sure.”

 LAGNIAPPE: Long passed Marvin Winkler (2,128 from 1966-70) for fourth place on UL’s all-time scoring list. … Shepherd tied Chris Manuel (139 from 1995-98) for 10th place on UL’s career leaders list for made 3-pointers. … Long also passed Jerry Flake (1,600 from 1965-68) for fifth place on the school’s all-time field goals attempted list, and he passed current Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton (644 from 2013-14) for fourth place on UL’s career free throws attempted list.

UL's Shawn Long (21) works under the basket in Saturday's

UL’s Shawn Long (21) works under the basket in Saturday’s Cajundome loss to Arkansas-Little Rock. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE, THE ADVERTISER)