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Men’s Basketball: Rebounding edge helps UL beat UTA for sixth straight win

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, January 31, 2016


Texas State vs ULL Ragin Cajuns January 28, 2016

UL guard Johnathan Stove (22) drives to the basketbal against UTA Mavericks guard Erick Neal (1) during the Cajuns’ 90-75 win Saturday in the Cajundome.(Photo: Buddy Delahoussaye/Special to the Advertiser)



UL’s start established the proper mood, but it didn’t necessarily last long.

Some time to stew, reflect and reset at halftime, however, put the Ragin’ Cajuns back in the right frame of mind Saturday.

And the finish was strong for the 11-8 Cajuns, who beat Texas-Arlington 90-75 in front of an announced 3,989 at the Cajundome to record their sixth straight victory and improve to 9-0 at home in 2015-16.

UL (7-3 in the Sun Belt Conference) ultimately outlasted a 14-6 UTA club that dropped its third straight without leading scorer and rebounder Kevin Hervey, who sustained a season-ending ACL knee tear in pregame warmups four outings ago.

“We wore them down a lot, honestly,” Cajuns power forward Bryce Washington said.

“They were pushing it hard at us in the first half, and really the first 10 minutes of the second half, but I think our depth probably hurt ’em.”

Four Cajuns scored in double-digits as Shawn Long led the way with a 22 points and 15 rebounds for his 65th career double-double.

With his last bucket, a late alley-oop dunk delivered by Kasey Shepherd, Long tied Jerry Flake for fifth place in UL’s career scoring list with 2,058 points.

Washington added 16 points and nine rebounds, Jay Wright 13 including 3-for-4 3-point shooting, Steven Wronkoski 11 including nine in the first half, Shepherd nine and Johnathan Stove eight with a team-high six assists.

UL jumped to an 11-0 lead in the opening two minutes behind a Washington layup, Wright’s first 3-pointer and two treys from Wronkoski.

“We talked about setting the tone from the get-go,” said Wronkoski, who also finished 3-for-4 from behind the arc.

“Those guys came in here last year and popped us pretty good. I remember that pretty vividly. So they left me open, and I hit some shots to get us going.”

UTA did claw back to tie the game over the next six minutes, and the Mavericks went up by as many as three points after an Erick Neal layup with just less than eight minutes to go before the break.

“I told them to settle down; we hadn’t done anything yet,” Cajuns said Bob Marlin said of a quick UTA timeout.

“This group’s gonna fight you right ’till the end. And, sure enough, they hit a couple of baskets, we turn it over. The next thing you know, they’ve scored four possessions in a row.”

Critical were the 24 combined rebounds from Long and Washington, as UL beat UTA 37-24 on the boards two nights after out-rebounding Texas State by 26.

The fact the Mavericks started the day with the Sun Belt’s best rebounding margin, plus-9.6, made it that much sweeter for UL.

“We beat a good basketball team,” said Marlin, whose Cajuns close a five-game homestand Tuesday night against UL Monroe. “They came at us hard early.

“They were very good defensively in the first half, and bothered us somewhat offensively. But, saying that, we shot over 50 percent in both halves (54.2 percent from the field for the game) and 50 percent on 3s in both halves.”

A make on the second of two freebies from 20-point team-high scorer Neal after a debated defensive foul by Cajuns guard Elijah McGuire sent the two teams into halftime tied 42-42.

“We were frustrated at halftime a little bit,” Marlin said. “Our guys were frustrated. A couple of calls went against us. We were frustrated with the way we played.

“And we told the guys at halftime, ‘Hey, we’re starting over. It’s 42 apiece, and the second half is what’s most important.’ ”

Neal scored again to open that second half and put UTA up by two, but Washington’s layup with 15:15 remaining put UL ahead to stay at 50-48.

That started a 10-3 run for UL, whose lead didn’t dip below double figures after McGuire hit the first of two free throws with 4:19 left to make it 77-67.

McGuire, a Cajuns running back who joined the basketball team earlier this month, also had a key steal and an ensuing basket off of a late-first-half goaltending call.

“He’s getting more comfortable each and every day,” Marlin said of McGuire, who had three points in five minutes.

“To get in the scoring column, make a couple big plays there on the defensive end and the offensive end – he made some good passes too – certainly helped.”

LAGNIAPPE: UL’s average margin of victory during its current six-game win streak is 19.3 points per game. … Long moved into sixth place on UL’s career minutes played list with 3,540, passing Andrew Toney (3,527) and Chris Manuel (3,536). … After going 10-of-10 on the free-throw line, Long also passed Randal Smith (604) for seventh place on UL’s all-time foul shots attempted list.