Men's Basketball: Gant plays Superman with 45 to carry Cajuns + photo galleries of the two Ark.games
Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, January 6, 2019
Senior captain Malik Marquetti is out for the season with a knee injury.
Senior captain Marcus Stroman was in foul trouble all night, playing just 11 minutes, and fouling out with 7:16 left to play.
UL coach Bob Marlin wasn’t even able to make the critical game due to a “family health concern” as his Ragin’ Cajuns tried to avoid the first 0-2 Sun Belt start since his first year in Lafayette during the 2010-11 season.
As it turned out, however, there wasn’t anything to worry about.
Senior captain JaKeenan Gant made sure of that.
In the closest thing to a one-man show in recent memory, all Gant did was score more points than any UL player in Cajundome history with 45 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Cajuns to a 75-61 victory over Little Rock on Saturday.
“My teammates got me the best shot, good shots, and that made it easier for me,” said Gant, who was 15-of-21 from the field and a perfect 11-of-11 shooting at the line.
That perfect effort at the line also put Gant in exclusive company, becoming only the fourth player in school history to shoot 100 percent with 10 or more attempts, joining Elvin Ivory, Michael Allen and Tiras Wade.
Not only was the 45 points the most in Cajundome history, it was also the most points scored since Andrew Toney scored 46 against Auburn in 1979. At that time, Toney's 46 was the sixth-highest point total in school history and Toney reached the 46-point total three times.
The school record for points scored is 62 by Bo Lamar.
“He had the energy early on,” UL acting head coach Josten Crow said. “He led us all night. He had outrageous energy. We talked about that as a staff all week.”
After scoring just two points and pulling down just two rebounds in the second half of Thursday’s 94-83 loss to Arkansas State, Gant wasn’t going to let that happen again.
This time around, Gant had 22 points and eight boards at the half.
“That weighed on me a lot,” Gant said. “I felt like I could have done more in the last game to help my team. I had a chip on my shoulder.
“I just tried to put two halves together. I didn’t do as good as I should have in the last game (in second half). My coaches have been on me about that, so I had a little chip on my shoulder … play harder and just rebound harder.”
Gant had a streak in the first half when he scored 14 straight points for the Cajuns and then followed that up with another one in the second half when he scored 12 of his team’s 14 points.
“Keenan is very territorial,” Crow said. “He can be aggressive at times and you saw that early and often tonight. But it starts with rebounding. He had 11 tonight, but he was active. He had his hands on a lot of balls.
“That’s something we preach to him as a staff. It’s infectious. It affects our whole team.”
To further illustrate how crucial’s Gant heroic effort was, every teammate shot below 50 percent from the field.
The rest of the team made 25.7 percent of their shots.
Cedric Russell was UL’s only other double-digit scorer with 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting, but he was also 3-of-7 from 3-point land.
That was one area where Gant was aided by his teammates. After P.J. Hardy was the only Cajun to hit a 3-pointer in the second half of the last two games, UL combined for eight 3-pointers in the second half in Saturday’s win.
Gant had three, but Russell added two and Hardy, Justin Miller and Jerekius Davis also make one.
“It definitely was important, especially me coming off a good shooting year last year and not coming out and shooting the ball like I want to this year,” Russell said.
“I just stayed in the gym working. Eventually it’s going to fall. My coaches and my teammates still have faith and confidence in me. Sometimes it’s hard, but you just have to keep going.”
The Cajuns out-rebounded Little Rock 31-29 and once again had fewer turnovers than their opponent with 17 to 23 for the visiting Trojans.
The other big area Russell and his fellow guards helped out in was ball handling and floor leadership.
With Stroman on the bench most of the night with foul trouble, Russell had four assists and only one turnover in 34 minutes.
Jeremy Hayes only had two turnovers in 29 minutes and Hardy just one in 32 minutes.
“In practice, we interchange guards all the time. Marcus is our head guy (at point guard), but at the end of the day, we had to do what we had to do to win the game,” Russell said. “We have guys who are really confident to handle the ball and finish the game.”
“It wasn’t a perfect game by any means,” Crow said. “We can take the fact that when things aren’t going perfect, we can still win a game, whether it’s at home or on the road.”
Especially with Superman — better known as JaKeenan Gant in these parts — leading the way.Athletic Network Footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.
NOTES by Matt Sullivan
• The 45 points by JaKeenan Gant were the most scored by a Ragin' Cajun since Dwight "Bo" Lamar (45) against West Texas A&M on Jan. 15, 1972.
• Gant posted career-highs in field goals made (15), FG attempts (21) and tied a career-mark in 3-pointers made (4).
• Gant became the first Ragin' Cajun since Andrew Toney scored 46 points against Auburn on Dec. 22, 1979.
• Gant, who was 11-for-11 from the free throw line, became the fourth player in school history to go perfect from the line joining Elvin Ivory (14-14, vs. Louisiana Tech, 2/2/67), Michael Allen (13-13, vs. Arkansas State, 1/13/94) and Tiras Wade (12-12, vs. Denver, 3/8/05) as Ragin' Cajuns who were perfect with 10 or more made free throws.
-- Matt Sullivan Associate Director of Athletics Communications
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