LAFAYETTE — Maybe all it took was a spark for the Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball team.
With a little less than six minutes remaining in the first half of the Cajuns’ (15-12, 9-7) 64-42 win against Texas State (10-16, 5-11), referee Ray Acosta collided with Cajuns coach Bob Marlin near the sideline, sending Marlin sprawling in front of his bench. Acosta looked down at Marlin and called a technical foul, and Marlin went berserk.
“I’ve seen him heated, but that was a first for me,” said junior guard Kasey Shepherd. “Coach Marlin’s been doing some weightlifting or something. There were three of us. I knew we had to get him, because if he gets to the referee, there won’t be a game.”
Marlin said he was trying to show Acosta exactly how a Texas State player had stepped out of bounds. Acosta didn’t see Marlin and ran into him full speed.
Marlin had to be restrained by players and members of his coaching staff, and wasn’t sure what would’ve happened without freshman forward Bryce Washington, though he was comfortable enough to joke about the play after the game.
“I think he had a pretty good hold on me,” Marlin said. “I got away from coach (Mike) Murpy and the policeman, but I couldn’t get away from Bryce.
“I thought I was there too, by the way. I thought that was a charge all the way.”
The officials converged after the play and took the technical away, instead issuing a coach’s box warning to the Cajuns bench. But the most important part may have been how the Cajuns played after Marlin’s outburst.
Point guard Jay Wright canned a 3-pointer on the Cajuns’ next possession, and they didn’t look back from there. The Cajuns outscored the Bobcats 42-24 after Marlin’s near technical foul.
Whether Marlin’s outburst had any role in it or not, the Cajuns’ performance against Texas State was one of their most complete games of the season.
A game after allowing Troy to shoot better than 60 percent in a white-knuckle overtime win, the Cajuns held the Bobcats to just 32.1 percent from the field and did not allow them to make a 3-point basket.
Texas State forward Emani Gant had scored double figures in all but two of his 23 games entering Thursday, but the Cajuns held him to a 3-for-12 shooting performance and a season-low six points.
“I thought we did a nice job on Gant,” Marlin said. “We were able to wall him off and really made it difficult to shoot the ball.”
As much as the Cajuns defense has been a scapegoat at times, it fueled a rally in the first half against the Bobcats when it started forcing turnovers in bunches.
Jay Wright tied the game at 14 after stealing the ball and beating the Bobcats down the floor for a contested layup. The Cajuns then forced three more turnovers in a span of four Bobcats possessions, leading to three more fast-break buckets.
A whirling Vieux Kande layup after a turnover closed a 13-2 Cajuns run.
“We want to push quick and have a quick strike after a turnover,” Marlin said. “The crowd gets into that, and tonight we had two or three in a row a couple times. It definitely helps our defense.”
The Cajuns closed the first half on a 21-6 run, then opened the second on a 14-4 run, opening a 22-point lead at one point. When the Bobcats started to fight back, the Cajuns squelched the rally with a pair of Xavian Rimmer 3-pointers.
“We did a good job not letting them come back in the second half,” Shepherd said.
Shawn Long led all scorers with 17 points in 28 minutes, and Shepherd – a native Texan – added 14 points and six rebounds off the bench.
Senior forward J.J. Davenport was not on the Cajuns bench during the game, and it appears his time with the program may be over. Davenport played in 17 games this season, averaging 1.3 points in 5.1 minutes per game.
“He has left the team,” Marlin said. “That’s all I know.”