Coach Bob Marlin said Louisiana-Lafayette’s basketball team can win in a lot of different ways.
During the Ragin’ Cajuns’ four-game win streak that has put them atop the Sun Belt Conference, they’ve proven that.
The Cajuns didn’t shoot 44 percent in either of their weekend Sun Belt games, played without their most athletic player and co-leading scorer in each, and had their point guard on the bench with foul trouble for good portion of Saturday’s game against Coastal Carolina.
They won those two games by a combined 50 points.
“We’ve got some versatility,” Marlin said shortly after the Cajuns (14-3, 4-0) rolled past Coastal 81-64. That came 48 hours after thumping previous conference unbeaten Appalachian State 78-45 on Thursday.
“We won the 3-point game, we won the transition game and we won the rebound game,” Marlin said. “I said if we stay healthy and play defense, we have an opportunity to have a really good season. Our defense has been good, our health has been good for the most part and we’re in a position to make something happen.”
That defense forced 32 turnovers in those two wins, and more important, the Cajuns scored 56 points off those turnovers compared to 24 for their opponents. Neither the Mountaineers nor the Chanticleers managed to shoot 40 percent after Coastal went 22 of 56 from the floor.
That’s with the Sun Belt’s best shot blocker, best percentage shooter and a 15.9-point and 7.1-rebound average producer on the bench. Junior JaKeenan Gant has been sidelined since suffering a hand injury in Wednesday’s practice; Marlin said the athletic 6-foot-8 transfer doesn’t have a timetable to return.
“We’re not sure,” he said. “He wanted to play tonight, but obviously he’s not going to do that. We’re focusing on the next guy stepping up.”
In the past two games, that’s meant increased roles for Justin Miller and Johnathan Stove. Miller had eight points in each weekend game, and his six rebounds helped UL-Lafayette take a 38-28 board advantage Saturday against a team that came in leading the Sun Belt in rebound margin.
That, combined with Bryce Washington’s back-to-back double-doubles, has limited opponent’s rebounds. The Cajuns’ two weekend foes had a grand total of one offensive rebound in the first halves of the two games.
Stove showed surprising range with three 3-point baskets Saturday on the way to 16 points.
“He really gave us a lift,” Marlin said. “He’s been working hard on his 3-point shot. Frank (Bartley) executed on a couple of out-of-bounds plays and was quick getting the ball off on his 3-point shots.”
Bartley finished with 22 points including four treys, and he was also part of another strong free-throw night for the Cajuns. UL-Lafayette hit 29 of 33 from the line with Bartley 8 of 9, Malik Marquetti 6 of 6 and Washington, Stove and Marcus Stroman all 5 of 6.
Stroman, who ranks in the top 25 nationally in assists, was saddled with foul trouble but still had six assists in 22 minutes.
“We’ve been passing the ball good,” said Marlin, whose team doesn’t play a Thursday game this week and will host state rival UL-Monroe on Saturday in its next game. “At halftime Saturday we had 11 assists on 15 baskets, and that was mostly without Marcus on the floor. We overpassed maybe a couple of times, but we shared the ball and we got loose in transition a couple of times.”
BRODHEAD GETS TO 100: UL-Lafayette women’s coach Garry Brodhead reached a milestone Saturday, but he was happier with his team’s third straight Sun Belt Conference victory.
The Cajuns forced 24 turnovers from Coastal Carolina, including four in five possessions in a pivotal fourth-quarter stretch, and held off the Chanticleers 59-55 to improve to 3-1 in the league.
Brodhead, in his sixth season at his alma mater, became the first women’s coach in school history to record 100 wins as his team evened its record at 8-8.
“We want the next hundred to come faster,” Brodhead said. “We know we have to win games with defense, and we’ve been doing that. At the end of the game, if you can make stops, that’s when you can separate from most teams.”
Freshman guard Skyler Goodwin had 17 points, including a clutch 3-pointer with 2:57 left that halted a Chanticleers rally and gave UL-Lafayette a 58-51 lead. The Cajuns had led by as many as 15 points late in the third quarter.