Men's Basketball: The first half belonged to Ja'Keenan Gant - Cajuns Bury UNO 87-65
Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, Dec.. 17, 2017
AFor the record, UL now leads the all-time series against UNO 40-32, including Cajun wins in 18 of the last 22 meetings.
But any longtime Ragin’ Cajuns supporter has the memories.
The ingredients were there.
UL's Frank Bartley (4) scored all 19 of his points in the second half of Saturday's 87-65 win over UNO. (Photo: Buddy Delahoussaye, Special to The Advertiser)
The Cajuns were on a roll with an 8-2 record. It was Saturday night. The game was in the Cajundome. UNO was in town.
And while those factors may have added a little nostalgia for a number of the 3,445 fans on hand for this mid-December meeting, coach Bob Marlin and the 2017-18 Cajuns were unfazed. They weren’t there for those previous meetings and don’t care.
This team is on a roll and answered every Privateer challenge with style in an impressive 87-65 victory over UNO.
“I love the way our team is playing,” Marlin said. “It’s the way I like to coach and I think it’s the way our fans like to see teams play.
“We’ve got to continue to push and hopefully keep going forward.”
This team certainly has a different look to it. Entering the game, UL was the only Division I school in America to be in the top 20 in scoring offense, assists, steals and offensive rebounds per game.
The overall points were there again and so were the assists. Of the 29 baskets the Cajuns scored Saturday, 21 were assisted.
“I love the way we’re sharing the basketball, playing together and making that extra pass,” Marlin said.
The next chance to witness the Cajuns before Sun Belt Conference play starts Dec. 29 in Little Rock is Tuesday against Southeastern.
“It’s good to see them play with enthusiasm,” Marlin said. “I talk about the Es all the time – enthusiasm, energy and efficiency.”
The elements that make this year’s team more dangerous are many. For starters, the scoring options are more varied and more explosive.
In the first half, Jakeenan Gant was on fire with 17 points, before finishing with 21 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and an assist. It was his first career double-double.
“Coach Marlin has been talking to me about rebounding more, being more aggressive on defense, getting more active on the offensive boards and getting more touches around the rim,” Gant said.
Apparently, the talk worked. In fact, Marlin said he had challenged Gant in a similar way on getting more steals in the previous game and it paid off with a season-high four steals. On Saturday, Gant got a career high with 11 rebounds.
“I guess I’ll have to go for blocks or something else in the next game,” said Marlin, who also likes the flash Gant brings to the proceeding.
Gant has now had at least two slam dunks in every game but the Ole Miss game.
“Those are momentum-changing plays,” Marlin said.
In the second half, it was Frank Bartley’s turn to explode. The senior guard had no points at the half, only to finish with 19 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“I just tried to not force as many shots in the first half and let the game come to me,” Bartley said. “I tried not force as many shots in the first half. Coach first play got me a good look at the 3. I saw it go in and I just tried to stay efficient from there.”
Despite playing a big UNO frontcourt, the Cajuns outrebounded the Privateers 33-24. Marlin has been challenging the guards to rebound better. Bartley had three and Malik Marquetti added two.
“We’re on a good roll,” Gant said. “We’re playing good ball. Not our best ball, but with a good pace, working together playing together.”
In a model of efficiency, UL shot 54.7 percent from the floor, 52.9 from 3-point land and 80 percent at the line.
“We reached all our team goals that we put on the board ahead of time,” Marlin said.
”We played a good basketball team. They’re an old conference rival that our fan base recognizes. They came in with something to prove. They played a lot of people close on the road. We couldn’t separate in the first half. Our defense was poor. We gave them a couple of second-chance opportunities. In the second half, we were finally able to get it to double digits and we were able to hold it there.”