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Men’s Basketball: Valiant Second-Half Effort For Ragin’ Cajuns Not Enough At ULM, 99-95

MONROE – Daishon Smith scored 27 points, including six free throws in the final 1:45 as ULM built an early 22-point lead and held off a furious Louisiana comeback to claim a 99-95 Sun Belt Conference victory on Saturday at Fant-Ewing Coliseum.
Michael Ertel scored 23 points, including a clutch 3-pointer with 2:15 remaining as ULM (10-7, 3-2 SBC) improved to 8-0 at home and snapped a two-game losing streak. Louisiana (11-7, 2-3 SBC), which lost its first game to the Warhawks in the last six contests, was led by JaKeenan Gant with 31 points and 10 rebounds.
"We felt like we had control over the last 10 minutes because we knew they (ULM) were tired," head coach Bob Marlin said. "We got (Michael) Ertel in foul trouble, but couldn’t get him out. He’s a really good player and one of the best guards in the league.
"Our guys played hard, I was proud of the way we battled after getting off to a slow start. We won the second half, but the defense wasn’t quite good enough. We had stretches where it was pretty good, and we rebounded and pushed the ball, but they hit shots late when they needed them."
The Warhawks, coming off a pair of disappointing one-point losses on the road last week, opened the game on a 20-6 run and led 42-22 on a 3-pointer by Smith with 7:11 to play in the first half. A dunk by Tyree White with 4:46 remaining in the half gave ULM a 47-25 lead before Louisiana closed out the half on a 14-6 run to trail 53-39 at the break.
Two free throws by Cedric Russell with 15:41 remaining helped Louisiana close the gap to 62-52, before the Ragin’ Cajuns narrowed the ULM lead to 64-58 on a 3-pointer by P.J. Hardy with 12:31 left.
Louisiana trailed 89-79 after a 3-pointer by Ertel before Hardy and Justin Miller sparked an 8-1 run. Miller’s two free throws with 3:09 left closed the Warhawk lead to 89-81 before back-to-back 3-pointers by Hardy got Louisiana to within 90-87 at the 2:35 mark.
Ertel, who finished 9-for-16 from the floor with four 3-pointers, answered with a 3-pointer to give ULM a 93-87 lead and Smith helped seal the win with six free throws to finish 13-for-13 at the line.
JD Williams scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead ULM, which won its 20th game at home in the last 24 contests dating back to last year. Andre Washington added 12 points and Travis Munnings 11 as ULM finished 33-for-67 (49 percent) from the floor and 21-for-25 (84 percent) from the free throw line.
Hardy scored a career-high 24 points for Louisiana, going 9-for-14 from the floor and 6-for-10 from behind the 3-point line. Russell added a season-high 14 points for the Ragin’ Cajuns with Marcus Stroman posting a double-double with 13 points and 12 assists.
The Ragin’ Cajuns, who were second in the Sun Belt Conference in free throw shooting (76 percent) behind ULM entering the game, made 25 of 34 attempts from the free throw line with Russell going 7-for-7 with Gant going 8-for-9 and having his streak of 22 consecutive free throws made snapped in the second half. 
Louisiana will return to action on Thursday (Jan. 24) when it plays host to South Alabama in a Sun Belt Conference game. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
• Season tickets, beginning at $100, are available online at RaginCajuns.com using Account Manager, or by calling the Louisiana Athletics Ticket Office at (337) 265-2357.
• All current UL faculty and staff, along with recent graduates (within the last five years), can purchase season tickets at a 50-percent discount to cheer on the Ragin’ Cajuns during the 2018-19 season at the Cajundome.
• The special package will allow recent graduates of Louisiana to purchase tickets in sections 101-103. Discounts will be applied upon confirmation of graduate status by the Louisiana Athletics Ticket Office.
• The game against Southern is part of the "Louisiana Passport," which will recognize Ragin’ Cajuns fans who attend all eight of Louisiana’s scheduled games against in-state opponents during the 2018-19 season.
• Each game, beginning with the Ragin’ Cajuns Nov. 28 game at New Orleans, fans will get their passport stamped at a location to be determined. In-state games for the Ragin’ Cajuns include home games against Southern (Dec. 1), Loyola (Dec. 5), Louisiana Tech (Dec. 15) and ULM (Feb. 16), with additional road games slated against McNeese State (Dec. 18), Southeastern Louisiana (Dec. 29) and ULM (Jan. 19).
• At Louisiana’s game against ULM at the Cajundome on Feb. 16, those who have a completed passport with eight stamps will be recognized on the court at some point during the game.
• For more information on tickets, contact the Louisiana Athletics Ticket Office at (337) 265-2357. For information concerning parking, contact the RCAF at (337) 851-2903.
• Help Louisiana Athletics continue to give back! After a successful start during the 2018 football season, the Cajuns Care program will allow Ragin’ Cajuns fans the opportunity to purchase Louisiana men’s basketball season tickets for $20.
• Tickets purchased through the Cajuns Care program will be donated to local charitable and philanthropic initiatives, including Boys & Girls Club of Acadiana, the United Way and area military servicemen and servicewomen.
• Fans and supporters of Louisiana men’s basketball can find the option to purchase Cajuns Care season tickets online, by calling the Louisiana Athletics Ticket Office at the Cajundome (337-265-2357) or visiting in-person.
Follow the Ragin’ Cajuns on Twitter (@RaginCajunsMBB), Facebook (RaginCajunsMBB) or Instagram (@RaginCajunsMBB) to stay up-to-date on all that is happening with Louisiana Men’s Basketball.