home sitesearch sitemap contact fan about
  Submit/Update Profile  

Search the Network:

Men’s Basketball: UL finds way in seventh straight win

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, March 13, 2015


PHOTO GALLERY: Sun Belt Tournament: UL vs. Texas State


UL’s No. 6-seeded women’s basketball team couldn’t have played much better in a heartbreaking 63-61 loss in Dayy 3 of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on Friday at Lakefront Arena.

The No. 4-seeded Ragin’ Cajun men squad, on the other hand, couldn’t have shot it much worse than it did for most of Friday’s contest with upset-minded and No. 8-seeded Texas State.

And came away with a 53-43 win.

Just chalk it up as another feather in the cap of coach Bob Marlin’s young team that has now won seven straight games and is just one win away from playing for an NCAA Tournament berth for the second consecutive season.

A feather not because it was a win to write home about. Again, that’s the point.

Winning streaks often aren’t about playing great every game. They’re about finding different ways to win on those nights when you aren’t sharp.

Friday’s game wasn’t a performance that was very much fun to watch at times for Cajun fans.

The Cajuns shot 17.9 percent from the field in the first half. Texas State shot 26.9 percent. The halftime score was 21-18.

Especially after watching the UL women play in such a smooth, entertaining showdown with a seed four spots ahead of them, it was one ugly showdown for the men against a team seeded four spots beneath them.

In the postseason, though, it’s not really about style and grace … or even entertaining the fans. It’s about advancing.

Not until the regular-season finale at Arkansas State on March 6 did the Cajuns shoot under 40 percent from the field and win the game.

On Friday, they weren’t even close to the 39.7 display in Jonesboro, finishing at 30.8 percent, and still won by double figures in the end.

Even Marlin admitted after the game that if you told him that Jay Wright would only make one basket for three total points and Shawn Long just two buckets for five points before the game, he would have feared trouble for the Cajuns.

Instead, this team just keeps inventing new ways — although some are admittedly not real appealing at times — to win games, as opposed to going down frustrating avenues that lead to agonizing losses.

I’m sure some Cajun fans were beginning to worry early in the second half, and with good reason.

An ugly first half is one thing, but suddenly Texas State had jumped out to a 32-23 lead with 15:42 left and then Long was whistled for his fourth foul with 12:56 left.

At the time, the fouls in the second half were seven against UL and one on Texas State.

“It’s a little frustrating when the fouls are lopsided,” UL junior guard Kasey Shepherd said. “But you’ve got to keep your head up and that’s what we did.”

With that perspective in mind, that’s certainly what Shepherd did. It was his 3-pointer that cut Texas State’s lead to 32-26 and his two free throws on an aggressive drive to the basket that made it 32-28.

You think Shepherd is worried about how the Cajuns win? Not hardly.

A year ago during UL’s NCAA drive, he was out for the season with a knee injury. During the Cajuns’ midseason slump this year, he was fighting his shooting touch and it didn’t seem like anything was going his way.

On Friday, he made sure the Cajuns didn’t falter. Shepherd would make a driving layup at 9:22 and two more free throws at 8:37 to give UL a 38-35.

So during that long stretch with Long on the bench with four fouls (he returned with UL leading 44-41 with 4:22 left), the Cajuns went on a 19-3 run to take a 42-35 lead, and Shepherd had nine of those points.

Asked in the postgame press conference if he was thinking about a few of his bombs hitting the side of the backboard, Shepherd simply responded, “Catch and shoot.”

I don’t know if the Cajuns are going to be able to get that winning streak to nine games or not. But if they fall short, something tells me it’s not going to be because of a lack of focus by Shepherd.

And apparently, the simmering battle with the officials during that critical second-half stretch either did some good or just required patience, because the next seven fouls were called on Texas State and eight of the 19 points in the run came at the free throw line.

So why did the Cajuns struggle against the No. 8 seed that they swept during the regular season?

If Texas State threw any curve balls, the Cajuns didn’t reveal it.

It’s entirely possible that this team filled with first-year Sun Belt postseason players were looking past a team it swept and toward Saturday’s matchup with No. 1 Georgia State.

If so, they overcame it.

It’s probable that it was just a matter of playing a team that typically plays ugly basketball with its back against the wall.

Truthfully, the reason doesn‘t even matter. In March, it’s about advancing.

And as Marlin made clear as he left the press conference, his Cajuns now “get” to play Georgia State.

In a showdown that promises to be a lot more fun for all involved.