Men's Basketball: Cajuns pull off another role reversal against SLU
Nick Fontenot, The Advertiser, Dec. 19, 2017
“I told them that this is exactly what we did against Louisiana Tech,” Marlin said.
The Cajuns jumped out to a 22-10 lead in Ruston last week before closing out the win. Marlin said he wondered if the Cajuns would wait until halftime to get the game back under control.
UL responded with a 17-2 run to close the second half against Southeastern, including a huge dunk from Jakeenan Gant that sparked the crowd. Gant led all Cajuns with 14 points, six Cajuns were in double figures and they closed out an 82-74 win.
“That was not the start we envisioned after a good, focused week of practice,” Marlin said. “We talked about (SLU) and how they have a good club. They punched us in the mouth, but we responded and that was good to see.”
Marlin said the defensive effort to close the first half was a testament to his team seizing the moment.
“The guys knew that was our opportunity,” he said. “It was all about defense and defensive rebounds. We can’t swap baskets and expect to win many games. We have to get stops and that’s what we did.”
Gant, who is averaging 20 points per game in his last five, said his confidence is continuing to rise as his teammates continue to push him.
“I am being more comfortable and taking it one game at a time,” Gant said. “My teammates believe in me and my confidence keeps rising.”
The Cajuns took a 31-29 lead into halftime, something Marlin said was important for the momentum of the second half. The second half saw SLU shoot 68 percent from the field, but the Cajuns overcame it. Marlin said the way the game played out is similar to what they can expect in conference play.
“The second half, we gave up 68 percent, but we took the 3-point shot away from them,” Marlin said. “They caught some breaks at times and took advantage, but that is exactly what we will see in conference. We will have to find ways to win games even when we struggle and that is what we did tonight.”
Marlin admitted to enjoying the past month of not leaving the state, but the Cajuns now face a tough road test Friday when they travel to Clemson. Marlin said Clemson will present a great out-of-conference challenge before Sun Belt play begins, but senior Bryce Washington said he isn’t getting caught up in the hype of the 11-1 Tigers.
“Those guys put their shorts on us just like us,” Washington said. “We don’t look at the name on their chest. I don’t believe in ‘Power 5’ and all that. We’re D1 basketball players. Those guys are big and athletic and flying under the radar. They’re a good team. We just have to go in there and play.”