Men's Basketball: Marlin's Cajuns respond to late scare from Texas State + game photo gallery
Tim Buckley, The Advertsier, Feb. 15, 2018
Athletic Network Footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.
In an instant — OK, two minutes and 22 seconds — Texas State cut a 13-point UL lead to five late in Thursday night’s second half.
But the Ragin’ Cajuns had an answer for the 10-2 run, and with that coach Bob Marlin’s club took care of business yet again — as has become its habit at the Cajundome this season.
The Cajuns wound up beating the Bobcats 73-63, improving to 22-4 overall, 12-1 in Sun Belt Conference play and — get this — 12-0 at home in 2017-18.
When things got a bit hairy Thursday, and what once was a 16-point UL lead with 12:00 remaining stood at just 60-55 with just less than four minutes to go, dogged determination prevailed.
Johnathan Stove hit two free throws with 3:53 left, JaKeenan Gant followed 39 seconds later with a Marcus Stroman-fed dunk, Stroman dished to Bryce Washington one possession later for a layup that made it 66-55 and UL’s advantage never dipped below eight points in the final two minutes.
The real difference, though, was not necessarily on the offensive end of the floor.
“Guard. Play defense. That was it,” Stove said. “Get stops. … We just locked down and played defense, really.”
“Yeah, we got lazy at times,” Washington added. “We just had to buckle down, had to refocus and guard.”
The Cajuns did just that down the stretch, perhaps influenced by the defensive issues they had in their only Sun Belt loss this season — a 106-92 defeat last week at Georgia State.
“During one of the timeouts, I said, ‘This is good for us,’” UL coach Bob Marlin said of having to protect a close late lead. “You know, we haven’t been in this situation for a while.
“So, we made some big plays when we had to and converted — and got some good stops too.”
AT THE HALF
UL led 34-24 after a first half in which Barley scored 12 of his 18 and Washington 11 of his 19.
“We got off to a slow start offensively, and those guys — (Tyler) Blount (who finished 4-for-7 on trey tries) hit a couple shots,” Marlin said. “He’s a 3-pointer shooter, and he got us for three in the first half.”
The Cajuns, though, limited Texas State to 29.6 percent field goal shooting before the break, a big difference-maker.
BY THE NUMBERS
Washington led UL with a game-high 19 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, marking his 11th double-double this season and the 36th of his four-year Cajun career. … Washington’s 16 shots from the field — he went 9-for-16 — were a career high, one more than his previous high against South Alabama earlier this season. … Frank Bartley IV added 18 points, including 6-for-6 free-throw shooting. … Stroman had 15 points while shooting 5-for-6 from the field and 5-for-5 on foul shots. … Gant’s line: 10 points, seven rebounds, four blocks. … Stroman’s line: 11 assists, seven rebounds, five points one steal. Nigel Pearson led Texas State with 15, including 6-for-13 field shooting.
UL big man Justin Miller played just one minute off the bench.
“He hurt his back Monday lifting weights, and he’s been having treatment,” Marlin said. “We thought he could play … but he said he couldn’t move.”
IN THE HOUSE
In the house at the Cajundome on Thursday night: Former UL point guard Jay Wright.
He plays for the Lakeland Magic, affiliate of the Orlando Magic, and is in town while the G-League is on its All-Star break.
Wright was teammates with Gant at Effingham County High in Georgia for two seasons.
“I looked over at him when JaKeenan (Gant) had a couple dunks,” Marlin said, “and then when JaKeenan blocked that shot (his fourth of the night) I looked and Jay had this big grin on his face.”
Also in the house Thursday: Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson.
Related: Wright delivers finish for the ages
The win was Marlin’s 150th as coach of the Cajuns. He’s now 150-108 in his eighth season at UL.
UL plays host to Texas-Arlington on Saturday night. The Cajuns beat UTA 77-65 back on Jan. 18 in Arlington.