Men's Basketball: Bit lip and all, Cajuns beat South Alabama on the glass
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Jan. 26, 2018
At the half Thursday night, UL held a one-rebound edge on South Alabama — and the Jaguars, despite being down by double-digits early, were hanging around, threatening to end the Ragin’ Cajuns’ seven-game win streak and their perfect record in Sun Belt Conference play.
But Cajuns coach Bob Marlin lit a fire under JaKeenan Gant at the break, and fellow big man Bryce Washington kept doing what he’d been doing on the boards all along, and UL walked away with a 76-57 win over the Jaguars.
As a result, the Cajuns — who out-rebounded South Al 24-9 after the break, and finished with a 41-25 advantage on the boards overall — improved to 18-3 with eight wins in a row including an 8-0 Sun Belt mark.
Washington finished with 16 boards, three shy of his season best and five short of his career high reached last season against UL Monroe.
With his fourth board of the night, he passed ex-Old Dominion star Kenny Gattison (963 from 1982-86) for fourth place on the SBC’s all-time rebounding leaders list.
“It’s just will,” Washington, a senior, said on the night of his 22nd birthday.
“Every rebound is a 50-50 ball, and I’m chasing something that I really want. And that’s my job — to rebound.
“You know, we know our roles on this team. I love to rebound. I love to rebound more than I love scoring,” added Washington, who also had 16 rebounds in UL’s win last Thursday night at Texas-Arlington and 19 in a victory late last month at Little Rock. “And if I have to rebound on the glass to win games, I’ll keep doing that. That’s no problem with me.”
With Washington pulling down eight of his 16 rebounds in the second half Thursday, and Gant finishing with eight boards after getting none in the opening half, UL extended a five-point halftime lead to as many as 21.
Two free throws by Johnathan Stove put the Cajuns ahead 66-45 with five minutes and 42 seconds left, and their lead never dipped below 15 after that.
Gant also scored 15 of his 16 after the break, finished 6-for-9 from the field including 2-of-4 from three-point range on a night Malik Marquetti lead the Cajuns with 21 points and Frank Bartley IV finished with 11.
“I just told (Gant) at halftime, ‘You don’t have any rebounds; I mean, you played 18 minutes, and blocked a couple shots,’” Marlin said of the junior transfer from Missouri.
“He dropped his head for a minute, and bit his lip, and came out the second half and took care of business. I thought he was really effective, and did a nice job.”
Behind two Marquetti 3-pointers and a big Gant block, UL jumped out to a 10-0 lead in less than four minutes.
South Al came back and tied the game at 27-27, though, and UL went into the break up 34-29.
Marquetti led UL at the half with 14 points, including 4-for-6 three-point shooting to that point.
BY THE NUMBERS
Washington had his 50th career game with at least 10 rebounds. … Marquetti finished 5-for-9 on trey tries and the Cajuns went 12-of-24 as a team from behind the arc, including 2-for-4 by Bartley and Cedric Russell as well. … After going scoreless at UTA last Thursday, Marquetti has 40 points in his last two games and was UL’s leading scorer in both. … Gant finished with four blocks, two in the first half and two in the second. … Attendance was announced at 5,036. … South Alabama fell to 11-10, 4-4.
Reserve big man Justin Miller (8.0 points, 4.2 rebounds per game) did not play for UL due to what the Cajuns are calling a “head injury.”
He apparently got elbowed during practice on Tuesday.
“Hopefully we’ll get him back as soon as possible,” Marlin said.
Former UL and LSU tennis coach Jerry Simmons, ex-Cajuns assistant football coach Lewis Cook (now head coach at Notre Dame High) and — although not in attendance — former Cajuns/NFL receiver Brandon Stokley, a Comeaux High product, were recognized during a first-half timeout for their upcoming induction this summer into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
UL plays host to Troy at 2 p.m. Saturday.