LAFAYETTE — The shooting woes lasted for the final seven minutes of each half Monday night.
The turnover struggles? They were there from start to finish in Louisiana-Lafayette’s opening road game of the 2014-15 men’s basketball season.
Those two areas were foremost on the mind of Ragin’ Cajuns coach Bob Marlin after his team’s 64-53 road loss at Tulsa on Monday, a trip that opened their four-game participation in the MGM Grand Main Event.
“What we’d done in practice the last three days we didn’t do at all in the first half,” Marlin said after the host Golden Hurricane had taken a 32-21 halftime lead. “Even with all that, we had a chance late and we didn’t execute.”
UL-Lafayette (1-1) saw its chances for a road win evaporate thanks mostly to 25 turnovers, a number that now puts the Cajuns at 46 through two games. UL-Lafayette had 21 turnovers in Friday’s season-opening 85-57 win over outmanned Louisiana College.
“I’m really disappointed at the way we handled the basketball,” Marlin said. “The worst thing was that we turned it over into baskets. We had travel calls that hurt us, some calls in post-ups, we had two illegal screens, and they all add up. We lose possessions and we don’t have anything positive to show for it.”
The Cajuns also didn’t have much to show on the offensive end. After leading the Sun Belt Conference in scoring last year (81.2 points per game) and hitting 56.4 percent of its shots in the opener against Louisiana College, UL-Lafayette made only two of its last 17 shots to end Monday’s first half and only two of its last 13 shots to end the game. Given those numbers, the Cajuns got stellar shooting just to get to its final 40.8 percent mark.
UL-Lafayette led 17-13 midway through the first half before scoring only four points the rest of the way during Tulsa’s 19-4 run. In the second half, the Cajuns made up that deficit in a hurry and led 35-34 at the 12-minute mark thanks to their best defensive stretch of the night, and were still within 46-45 with eight minutes left.
That’s when Tulsa went on another run, this one 14-3, to take a double-digit lead. The Cajuns went from the 8:06 mark until only 1:20 remained without a field goal, before Haward Register’s second three-pointer of the game.
One of the few bright points was point guard Tiremone Williams, with the Abbeville junior and Western Texas College transfer coming off the bench for four points, three assists, a team-high six rebounds and no turnovers in 21 minutes.
“He did a nice job and was solid,” Marlin said. “He started the second half and played well for us. Some other guys did some good things too, but we waited too long to get going.”
The Cajuns will have to get going quickly. They’ll be back on the road Friday at Auburn in their second game in the MGM Grand event. UL-Lafayette will travel from Auburn to Las Vegas where they will face Milwaukee on Monday and Oral Roberts on Tuesday.
Oral Roberts beat Tulsa 77-68 last Saturday.
Auburn (1-1) topped Milwaukee 83-73 on Saturday but got walloped 90-59 at Colorado on Monday. The Tigers trailed only 38-34 at halftime but were blown out 52-25 after halftime, thanks mostly to a 24-0 Colorado run that turned a five-point game into a 75-46 spread.
“We’ve got to clean up a lot before then,” Marlin said, “because Auburn’s going to press us start to finish. I told the guys that they’re going to come out and do it for 40 minutes, and they’ll be excited when they see we’ve had 20-plus turnovers in two games. We just have to do a better job.”