Men's Basketball: UL win over ULM a big relief after 0-for-11 Cajuns start
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Jan. 13, 2018
When at first you don’t succeed, shoot and shoot again.
The Ragin’ Cajuns did that Saturday night, and it paid in a big way as UL beat UL Monroe 82-48 Saturday night in front of 5,813 at the Cajundome.
UL’s first points of the night did not come until a JaKeenan Gant jumper five minutes and 35 seconds into the first half that made it 3-2 ULM.
The Cajuns, in fact, missed their first 11 shots from the field.
But they went 6-of-7 from there to take a 13-4 lead, and — boosted by point guard Marcus Stroman’s steady hand — rolled from there to improve to 15-3 overall with five straight wins and 5-0 in Sun Belt Conference play.
That’s the best overall start since the 1972-73 season for UL, which has now won a school-record 11 straight regular-season Sun Belt Conference games dating back to last season — topping the previous streak coach Bob Marlin had in his first season at UL, 2010-11.
Kevin Foote column: Cajuns continue historic start
“We didn’t play in a week, so we were kind of rusty,” said Frank Bartley IV, UL’s senior scoring leader. “But once we got it going, (saw) the ball go in, we just took it from there and we just kept playing.”
Despite its start, UL led 33-15 at halftime after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Bartley, who along with Gant finished with a team high-tying 12 points.
Bartley was UL’s leading scorer at halftime with seven points, but he was 3-of-14 from the field including 1-of-8 on trey tries before the break.
Bartley opened 0-for-8 from the field, but wasn’t about to stop shooting.
And when he hit that first 3-pointer, his body language read "phew."
“That’s exactly what it is,” Bartley said.
“You know shooters: They always want to see the ball go in, and when I saw it go in … ‘finally.’”
Oh, what a relief it was.
“Frank (Bartley) didn’t miss a shot (Saturday) in practice,” Marlin said, “and he couldn’t hit one (Saturday night).
“(But) we ran a set play against their zone and got one in (from Bartley) to finish the half, and it seemed to open the gates a little bit.”
UL indeed opened the second half 12-of-14 from the field capped by a Justin Miller 3-pointer to take a seemingly insurmountable 66-27 lead with just more than 11 minutes to go.
The Cajuns then pushed their advantage to game-high 42 points when Johnathan Stove hit one of his three-pointers on the night to make it 82-40.
They finished shooting 47.6 percent after going 56.7 percent in the second half and despite being 39.4 percent in the first half.
The 15 points UL held ULM (7-9, 1-4) to in the first were the fewest by a Cajun opponent in an opening half this season, and it marked the fourth time this season the Cajuns have held their opponent to less than 20 points before the break — along with Iowa (17), Appalachian State (17) and Loyola of New Orleans (19).
Each time that happened, UL won.
“We had so much energy,” said Stroman, who also referenced the long week off. “We just (were) ready to play, and it showed on the defensive end.”
“We did not execute (offensively), made a couple of bad decisions the first few minutes of the game,” Marlin added. “But our defense was so good that we stayed in the game.”
Gant returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with an injured shooting hand, so sophomore big man Miller returned to coming off the bench for UL.
Gant, the Sun Belt leader in field goal percentage, shot 5-for-6 from the field including 2-for-3 from 3-point range.
He got his 12 points in just 16 minutes.
“I thought he did a good job,” Marlin said. “He struggled a little bit early, but he had a couple blocks — and the two 3-pointers, I thought, were huge for his confidence.”
BY THE NUMBERS
UL’s 34-point win marked its largest margin of victory against UL Monroe in longtime series history, a and the biggest since a 31-point win in 1961. … With 10 points and 10 assists, Stroman had his second double-double of the season and of his career — along with one at Arkansas State on New Year’s Eve. … By appearing in his 120th career game Saturday night, starting power forward Bryce Washington — who had a game-high 12 rebounds — moved into a tie with Marcus Stokes for eighth place in UL’s all-time games played leaders list; Washington also passed ex-teammate Jay Wright for 32nd place on UL's all-time scoring list Saturday. … Malik Marquetti went 3-for-5 on trey tries for the Cajuns. ... UL had 23 assists on its 30 field goals.
UL visits Texas-Arlington on Thursday night and Texas State on Saturday afternoon, and is not back at the Cajundome until playing host to South Alabama on Jan. 25.