HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Sam Houston State coach Jason Hooten entered Saturday’s game against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette one win shy of a milestone 100th career men’s basketball victory.
As the final buzzer sounded, Hooten was once again in the shadow of his former mentor, UL-Lafayette coach Bob Marlin.
The Cajuns returned to Marlin’s former school and beat the Bearkats in the College Insider.com tournament on a final-second 3-pointer by sophomore guard Jay Wright.
For Marlin, Sam Houston State’s all-time winningest coach, the 71-70 dramatic victory Saturday at the Bernard Johnson Coliseum was that much sweeter.
“It was exciting to come back and win,” Marlin said. “I have a lot of fond memories at this coliseum. It was good to win and good to see a lot of great people.”
Marlin took the Bearkats to their first two NCAA trips in school history in his 12 years in Huntsville from 1998-2010.
Although Marlin didn’t show much emotion, his players knew what it meant to him.
“He didn’t talk much about it, but I know it means a lot to him to be able to come back here and win at his old school,” junior guard Kasey Shepherd said.
“I know he is real happy on the inside. I’m glad we could get a win for him.”
Marlin compiled a 225-131 record at SHSU, including a 134-29 home mark.
He took the Bearkats to the NCAA tournament twice, in 2003 and 2010, before getting the Cajuns to the Big Dance last season.
Hooten was on Marlin’s staff for six years before taking over the program when Marlin came to Lafayette in 2010.
Hooten has had his own success in Huntsville, with the Bearkats winning 50 games in the past two years, including 26 this year.
Hooten downplayed his first matchup against his former head coach.
“It was just another game,” Hooten said. “I tried to win. He tried to win. He came out on top with a 3-pointer with .9 seconds left.
“It doesn’t matter who it is against. It’s always tough to lose.”
Wright, who made the winning shot, knew how much it meant for his coach.
“It means a lot,” Wright said. “I know coach Marlin wanted to win so bad. We were down after losing in the Sun Belt (tournament). This was our chance to make up for it.”
For Marlin, it keeps the Cajuns playing for another day as they advance into the tournament quarterfinals.
The game’s time, location and opponent should be decided by Sunday.
“To keep playing an extra game for our young group is huge,” Marlin said. “It’s a nice win, but I hope it’s my last trip. I’d like to win in the Cajundome. We better get a home game at some point in this tournament.”