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Men's Basketball: Turnovers cost Cajuns late in Sun Belt loss to Little Rock + Photo Gallery

Nick Fontenot, The Advertiser, Dec. 22, 2019

Click here for the Little Rock vs. Cajuns game photo gallery.

A combination of ball security, turnovers and bad possessions down the stretch played their roles in UL’s 69-66 home loss to Arkansas Little Rock on Saturday at the Cajundome.

Little Rock's Markquis Nowell was held to just seven points, but Kamani Johnson and Ruot Monyyong combined for 40 points for the Trojans. The Cajuns led by 14 with 14 minutes to go, but a 22-4 Trojans run did the Cajuns in.

“We had six possessions in a row where we didn't score,” UL coach Bob Marlin said, “but we were still stopping them. Then we quit stopping them and we still didn't score. We had a couple of bad possessions late and some turnovers that led to easy buckets.”

All in all, the Cajuns turned the ball over just 12 times — five fewer turnovers than the Trojans. But the turnovers came at critical times and Marlin said when the turnovers came, the baskets came on the other end.

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“We threw a couple of pick 6s that led to transition opportunities,” Marlin said. “You can’t set your defense up in those situations. We have to have better ball security. That was a big key to the game.”

Jalen Johnson, who led all scorers with 26 points — including 17 in the second half — said during the stretches where shots aren't falling, it can be contagious. Johnson said it’s during those times where the team needs to come together.

 

“If it’s not falling, a lot of teams will get going bad and let it affect our defense as well,” Johnson said. “We can’t let that happen in the game. That’s the time as a team, we need to come together and make a decision to get in the bonus and get on the free-throw line. We are a good free-throw shooting team. That’s the time we should focus on getting to the line and getting our groove back.”

More: UL's Jalen Johnson must know opponents have him pegged

The Cajuns also lost Tirus Smith after he fouled out with 7:21 to play. Marlin said Little Rock’s inside played a big role in the end of the game with Smith’s defensive presence being absent.

“Tirus fouling out didn't help our cause,” Marlin said. “Look at the inside field goals, those guys were 17-of21. They were scoring pretty regularly there. Tirus is our best post defender. We missed him tonight.”

More: UL's Tirus Smith wondered if he was ever going to play again

The Cajuns had a last-second 3-point shot, set up beautifully out a timeout which gave Cedric Russell a wide-open look from behind the arc. Russell, who scored 11 in the game and was 3-of-8 from 3-point range, let it fly, but the shot fell short.

Russell said during the tough times when the shots aren't falling and the Cajuns are dropping games is the time the camaraderie needs to be at its highest.

“When it’s good, it’s easy to give high fives,” Russell said. “When it gets tough like it did in the end — with turnovers and the other team in our back — that’s where our level of maturity kicks in. That is definitely something we need to work on.

“We need to trust in each other and really lean on each other and not having division in the locker room. We need to expect that the next man is going to pick up the slack. It was unfortunate that we had some turnovers at the end and they made some tough buckets. We just need to settle in and remember why we’re out here and be comfortable.”

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