The Cajuns at 21-4 are off to the schools best start
- 28 Feb, 2018
The Cajuns at 21-4 are off to the schools best start in its history since the 1972-73 season. Here’s an inside look of the last 8 games from Head Coach Bob Marlin.
Louisiana Ragin Cajuns sitting atop the Sun Belt at 14-3 welcomed in-state rival ULM to the Cajundome. This was a special game for me as we held a Reunion for all former players. The players got to come to our shoot around, meet at Pete’s before the game, formed a tunnel for our players to run through pre game and were introduce at half time. We held a social with all former, current players and their families after the game. It was a special night for the Cajun Family.
The game did not start out the way we had hoped offensively. We began 0-11 from the field. Our defensive however did show up and when JaKeenan Gant hit a 16-footer with 14:25 remaining in the half to give the Cajuns our first points, it sparked a 21-6 run for the Cajuns and at half we were up 33-15. The start off the second half was a completely different story, we came out and hit 12 of 14 shots including 9 three pointers in route to our largest margin of victory over ULM in the 76-game series, 82-48. Leading the way was Marcus Stroman recording a double-double with 10 points, 10 assists, and 5 steals.
The Cajuns are off to our best start in conference since the 1999-2000 season, riding a five game win streak as we headed on the road to face Preseason SBC favorite and defending champion UTA.
We didn’t get off to our best start against UTA. Down as many as 14 points in the first half, the Mavericks led by 12 at the break 44-32. During halftime I reminded the team that last year we were in the same position. We did a great job defensively in the second half and offensively we flipped the script. Cajuns shot 58 percent from the floor and held UTA to 25 percent. The Cajuns took the lead on Jakeenan Gant’s 3-pointer with 13:11 to play and never lost the lead securing a 77-65 victory. Frank Bartley scored a season-high 26 points giving the Cajuns our sixth straight win and 12th straight SBC game win dating back to last season, most in school history.
Next, the Cajuns headed to San Marcos to finish the Texas road trip. Coming into the match up, Texas State was also riding a 6-game win streak, sitting in second place behind us at 6-1 and off to their best start in 14 years.
The mentality of our team has been the next man step up, whether due to injury or bad play and we saw this with Malik Marquetti. Malik was coming off a scoreless game against UTA, out rebounded to score a career-high 19 points helping the Cajuns to a 80-55 win over the Bobcats. We beat a very good team and held them to 32.2 percent from the floor for the best defensive night we’ve had on the road.
Heading back home with a two-game lead in conference, the Cajuns prepared for two home games against South Alabama and Troy. The South Alabama game was our “Black Out” game, the team wore the black jerseys at home and fans were encouraged to wear black.
The Cajuns were welcomed back to a crowd of over 5,000 at the Cajundome and we needed the Cajun Nation energy. South Alabama was coming into the game on a two game win streak, we knew they were going to play us tough and going into half we only had a five point lead. Malik Marquetti lead the way for the second straight game with a career high 21 points including five three pointers. Bryce Washington pulled down 16 rebounds and Jakeenan Gant added 16 points to lead the Cajuns to a 76-57 win. The Cajuns 8-0 start in Sun Belt Conference play is the first in school history.
Next up, the Cajuns played the defending SBC tournament champs Troy and the last team to beat us in regular season conference play. Since our 100-88 loss to Troy we have won 14 straight SBC games for the longest streak in school history.
Troy is a very good team despite their record and they showed this opening the game on a 9-4 run. The score was close going into halftime. JaKeenan Gant hit a deep bank 3-pointer with the clock expiring to give us the momentum and 40-36 lead. Troy kept responding back and with 15:23 tied the game 46-46. The Cajuns pulled away winning another game by double digits 81-69. Jakeenan Gant posted a career-high 24 points with four 3-pointers and had his best all-around game on both ends of the floor. Frank Bartley and Johnathan Stove both chipped in with 18 points as the Cajuns finished the month of January with an unbeaten record for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
The Cajuns headed back on the road for three consecutive road games with stops in Monroe and Georgia.
First up was ULM had won two straight games. We knew we needed to get off to a fast start against ULM. The players came into the game focused scoring the first eight points off the game and never trailed in the game. The lead got to 11 in the first half before a 11-3 run by ULM closed the gap to 38-33 at the half. It would be the closest ULM would get; Cajuns started the second half on a 21-5 run en route to an 80-59 victory. Frank Bartley led five players in double-figures with 22; Malik Marquetti scored 17 points, Jakeenan Gant 14 points, Bryce Washington 12 and Johnathan Stove 12.
The ULM game was Louisiana’s 20th win on the season and marked the earliest date in school history to reach 20 wins. Georgia State was the next opponent on our schedule and the first of a two game swing through the Peach State.
The game was between the top two teams in the league standings and two of the hottest teams in the country, Cajuns on a ten game win streak and Georgia State on a nine game streak.
Georgia State jumped out to a 7-2 lead, Cajuns answered with our own 10-4 run to take our only lead of the game 12-11. Georgia State out rebounded us by 10 boards which was our largest deficit all year. We had moments where we push the game to 6 points but every time, Georgia State responded with their own run, beating us 106-92. Frank Bartley lead five Cajuns in double figures with 21 points. Bryce Washington pulled down six rebounds, becoming the fourth player in both Ragin Cajuns and Sun Belt history to record 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. Marcus Stroman’s 15 assists in the game are tied for the fifth-most in a single NCAA game this season. The 15 assists were the most by a Ragin’ Cajun since Aaron Mitchell 15 assists against Chattanooga on January 2, 1990.
Cajuns headed to Statesboro for the final game of the three game road trip against Georgia Southern. After the loss to Georgia State the coaching staff focused on two areas with the team: rebound margin and moving forward. With the help of great senior leadership, the team responded and out rebounded Georgia Southern by 24. The 52-28 margin was our largest of the season after a poor rebounding effort the previous game. Lead by Johnathan Stove’s career high 28 points in only 22 minutes, the Cajuns won 102-91. Stove’s 28 points made him the 46th player in Ragin Cajuns history to reach the 1,000-point mark. With a little help from ULM beating Georgia State in OT, the Cajuns left Georgia with 1.5 game lead over Georgia State with the next 4 out of 6 games at home.
The Cajuns are heading back home for two home games against Texas State and UT Arlington with an overall record of 21-4 and Sun Belt Record of 11-1. Louisiana is currently raked 51 in the RPI, 46 in the BPI and received five votes in the USA Today Coaches poll. We are currently ranked 5th in the College Insider Mid Major top 25 poll. We are one of only two teams in country with eight or more wins on the road while posting a perfect record at home. In the month of February during my tenure Louisiana is 52-18.
Bryce Washington’s parents, Brent and Troye Washington, will preside over Mardi Gras in New Orleans on Tuesday as King and Queen of Zulu.
Happy Mardi Gras Cajuns Nation! See you at the Dome!
Acadiana’s Team! Geaux Cajuns!