The team is starting 2018 off with a 14-3 record
- 13 Jan, 2018
The team is starting 2018 off with a 14-3 record and sitting atop the Sun Belt at 4-0 in conference. As we prepare for in-state rival, UL Monroe, this coming Saturday at the Cajundome, let’s take a look back at the last couple weeks.
The Louisiana Tech win was a huge road victory; we have won the last two out of three in Ruston. The team then prepared for two home games against in state schools UNO and Southeastern.
The Cajuns, at 8-2, then welcomed last year’s Southland Conference Tournament Champion New Orleans to the Cajundome. Lead by JaKeenan Gant and Frank Bartley, we were able to come away with an 87-65 win over UNO. It was a tale of two halves for both players as Gant scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half and Bartley scoring all of his 19 points in the second half. Gant’s strong first half performance enabled him to go on to record his first career double-double, finishing with 21 points and 11 rebounds. With the Cajuns riding a six game win streak, we prepared for our last non-conference home game of the season against Southeastern.
This being the Cajuns best start to the season in over 20 years, we welcomed Southeastern back to Cajun Nation for the first time since the 1984 Bayou Classic at Blackham Coliseum. We knew the Lions were going to be a tough test and led by New Orleans native, 5’9” Marlain Veal, Southeastern jumped out to a 13 point lead in the first half. We responded with a 17-2 run and with the help of six Cajuns in double figures, we came out victorious 82-74. Both Bryce and JaKeenan recorded double-doubles, Frank added 13 points followed by Malik’s 12 points, Marcus with 11 and Johnathan with 10.
With the Cajuns win over Southeastern, we are now on a 16-game win streak against in-state opponents and have won 13 straight non-conference games at home dating back to 2015.
Next was our last non-conference game on the road three days before Christmas against the Clemson Tigers at Littlejohn Coliseum. It was the schools first ever meeting and a homecoming for point guard Marcus Stroman who is from Columbia, S.C. Clemson was coming into the game 10-1 on the verge of being nationally ranked and definitely looking like an NCAA tournament team. You could sum up the game for us by the first possession, playing good defense and with the shot clock running out, Clemson hits a deep contested three. Clemson controlled the game from then on overcoming the Cajuns 89-60. We did take some positives from the game; the team went 22 for 23 from the free throw line and only had 10 turnovers.
We gave the guys a couple days off for Christmas then right back at it getting ready for the Cajuns 27th season of Sun Belt Conference play.
This is the second straight year the Cajuns opened conference on the road with a trip to Arkansas. The Cajuns sporting a conference best 10-3 record, we looked to close out 2017 with two wins. The trip started off great when my good friend, Eric Nelson of Athletes in Action, spoke to the team during pregame meal at Little Rock. “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.”
We knew we needed to start fast in Little Rock to have a good trip and we did just that jumping out to a 23-point lead in the first half. Coaches and I were a little disappointed in the team’s sluggish play in the second half but were led by JaKeenan and Bryce, both with double-doubles, we won the game 77-63. Next up for us was a showdown on New Year’s Eve in Jonesboro.
ASU is never an easy game, the crowd is always on the officials and us, and it is just a good college basketball environment. To add to that, we had not swept the Arkansas trip since 2000. Arkansas State got out to a fast start making their first 14 of 19 shots from the floor and both Bryce and JaKeenan sat for the last 12 mins of the half in foul trouble. Still the team matched their fast start and headed into half tied up 40-40. We had several guys step up from Frank tying his season high 23 points to Marcus recording his first double-double with 14 points and 10 assist plus 8 rebounds. Late in the second half with 3:57 remaining with the game tied, senior Jonathan Stove hits a corner three late in the shot clock starting a 9-0 run and helping secure 88-78 win.
The Cajuns brought in the New Year on a bus heading back home. The 12 wins before New Year’s Day became the most in school history. We gave the guys off for New Year’s Day, then back at it on Tuesday January 2 to start preparing for Appalachian State.
In the practice leading up to App State game, JaKeenan injured his hand and would have to sit out for a couple of weeks. This is not the first time this season the Cajuns had to deal with injures. With injures to Johnathan, Frank and Marcus, our team has had a next man step up mentality.
Playing at home for the first time since December 19, the Cajuns were welcomed with a crowd of 4,500 energetic Cajun Fans! The game featured the top two teams in the standings and in scoring. We challenge our guys defensively in the days leading up to the game and they stepped up and responded. The team put together their best defensive performance of the year only allowing App State 45 points on 34 percent shooting. Led by Frank’s 16 points and Bryce’s 33rd career double-double, we secured the victory 78-45 to move to 3-0 in conference play.
We were looking to equal our best start in Sun Belt Conference play in four years and the team had only one day to prepare for Coastal Carolina. Coastal came into the game leading the league in rebounding margin and we felt that if we could beat them on the boards, we would win the game. Our guys stepped up and did just that and out rebounded them by 10, 38-28. Malik tied his career-high with 17 points and Johnathan Stove came off the bench for 16 points and a career high three 3-pointers helping the Cajuns to an 81-64 victory. This is the Cajuns 10th straight win in league play dating back to last year.
Next up is our rivalry game at home against ULM. It is also the reunion game for all former players of the program and will definitely be a special night. The Cajuns are sitting atop the Sun Belt at 4-0 and 14-3 on the season. We are currently ranked 4th in the College Insider Mid Major top 25 poll. 14-3 is the best start for the Cajuns in 28 years!
Acadiana’s Team! Geaux Cajuns!