Men's Basketball: Cajuns drop 'emotionally charged' NIT game at LSU + photo gallery
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 15, 2018
BATON ROUGE — Down by a dozen points at halftime, UL wasn’t about to cave.
Not in a first-round NIT game.
Not with seniors Johnathan Stove and Frank Bartley IV playing back in their hometown.
And certainly not in just the sixth game LSU has granted the Ragin’ Cajuns since 1945 — according to Tiger records, which differ from those of UL.
Column: War of words made NIT game fun
“Toward the end of the first half,” said Stove, who like Bartley played at Baton Rouge’s Christian Life Academy, “we let it get away from us.”
But, Stove added, “We (knew) we wanted to win this game, and we all looked at each other and we knew what we had to do to get back in.”
The Cajuns did just that, forcing action as much as they could, but wound up falling 84-76 anyway in front of an announced 6,846 at Pete Maravich Assembly Center here.
It wasn’t for lack of trying, though, that the 2017-18 season ends at 27-7 for the Sun Belt Conference’s regular-season champs.
“We weren’t able to close it out,” UL coach Bob Marlin said, “but it was intense game — and that’s the way it should be.
“We fought,” Marlin added. “I felt we played harder than they did.”
Trailing by as many as 14 points with nine minutes and 46 seconds left in the third quarter — the NIT is playing four quarters instead of two halves, among several different rules changes with which it is experimenting — UL was within one at 73-72 after point guard Marcus Stroman hit a jumper with 1:39 to go.
Tremont Waters, though, answered with two free throws.
The Cajuns could have tied it with a 3-pointer on their next trip down the floor, but Daryl Edwards stole the ball from Stroman, was fouled by Bryce Washington, hit one of the two freebies that followed and LSU never trailed by fewer than four the rest of the way.
Up nine after a Brandon Sampson free throw with 12 seconds left, LSU coach Will Wade called a timeout.
Much chirping and a bit of ugliness ensued, both benches were tagged with technical fouls and several players and coaches from the two sides had to be separated before all finally headed to their respective locker rooms.
“It was an emotionally charged environment. … They’re the one that started all of that stuff,” Wade said.
Asked why he called the timeout, Wade — evidently hot over Cajun complaints about the game not being played in Lafayette despite UL’s much-higher RPI, and about LSU not being willing to play them since 2009 — had a rather snappy retort.
“Well,” he said, “since they don’t get to play us very often, I thought they should sit there and enjoy the opportunity to play us.”
Asked about another comment from Wade, one in which the LSU coach said, “We’re about action, not talk here,” Marlin responded in kind.
“He can coach his team the way he wants to coach, and talk a mean game,” the Cajuns coach said. “That’s fine.”
Bartley led UL with nine points of his team-high 21 points at halftime, but the Cajuns shot 4-for-14 from 3-point range and their defense at the basket cost them dearly as LSU took a 40-28 lead into the break.
UL shot 42.9 percent in the opening quarter but just 33.3 percent in the second.
The Cajuns wound up shooting just 36.5 percent from the field, while the Tigers — who dominated inside 46 points in the paint to UL’s 28 — finished at 52.7 percent.
Big man Duop Reath led LSU with 26 points, while Stove added 17 points, Stroman 12 and Cedric Russell 10 for UL.
BY THE NUMBERS
Washington moved out of a tie with Shawn Long and into a tie with Steven Wronkoski (2012-16) for first place on UL’s all-time games played list with 136. … With the third of his seven assists Wednesday, Stroman passed current Phoenix Suns point guard Elfrid Payton (208 in 2013-14) for fourth-most in a single season in the Cajun record book. … Stroman’s game-high 13 rebounds Wednesday were a season-high, and five more than his prior best. … Bartley’s five made treys against the Tigers gave him 152 in his two-year UL career, and moved him into a tie with Kevin Brooks (1987-91) for eighth place in school history.
Justin Miller entered as an early sub for JaKeenan Gant, who started but has been dealing recently with an upper respiratory issue. Gant returned later in the first quarter, however, and wound up playing 22 minutes. Marlin said he was “probably 75 (percent),” and got winded at times. … Washington (sprained ankle) started as expected. … After spending a few games dealing with a high ankle sprain, usual sixth-man Stove, from Baton Rouge’s Christian Life Academy, got the start for UL over Malik Marquetti.
More: Marlin says UL leader Washington 'loves to rebound'