When you’re still four games under .500, all wins are important.
But not all of them are as satisfying.
After a humbling 90-52 road loss at Georgia State on Jan. 9, one can only imagine how good Thursday's dramatic 80-78 victory over the Panthers felt.
“Yes, we talked about it,” Marlin said of the first meeting when Georgia State led by as many as 45 points.
In some rematches, the tone of Marlin’s comments would have been a bit more tame.
Against Georgia State, fat chance that was going to happen.
“I remember the feeling we had at halftime, I remember the feeling after the game and I remember the feeling the next day on the bus to Statesboro,” Marlin added.
“I don’t care for Georgia State and they certainly don’t care for me, either. But we wanted to compete and we did. We came out and took their best shot tonight and came out on top.”
Marlin's Cajuns will now try to pull off a weekend sweep when they host Georgia Southern (14-10, 8-5) at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Cajundome.
It was the second straight season UL beat the Panthers at the Cajundome, but only the Cajuns’ second win in the past eight games in the series.
Junior guard Cedric Russell hit a pair of huge 3-pointers in the final 1:06 of regulation to bring UL within one and give the Cajuns a 78-76 lead with 24.5 seconds left.
“Definitely,” said Russell, who finished with 17 points. “It’s just something about that blue jersey. Just from my first game playing here up until now, it’s always special.
“I know for sure if we would have had all our guys, we would have made it special up there, too. I just wish we would have given it a better fight up there.”
In that first meeting, neither senior guard P.J. Hardy or freshman guard Mylik Wilson were able to play in the game because of injuries.
“It looks like P.J. Hardy, who played 40 minutes, did a great job defensively again on a really good player in (Corey) Allen and Mylik Wilson, who didn’t play off a 30-point performance, would have made a little bit of a difference in Atlanta,” Marlin observed.
In fact, it was Wilson’s aggressive drive to the basket for a bucket with 1.9 seconds left that proved to be the game-winner.
“Coach drew up a play for us,” said Wilson, who finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and four steals. “He told me to just get to the basket, don’t settle, so I just got to the basket and laid it up.
“Get the screen and just go to the basket and lay it in.”
It was obvious early on the Cajuns (now 10-14, 5-8) had an extra edge due to the earlier blowout, playing aggressive defense in the opening minutes.
“We had a bad taste in our mouth and we owed them one tonight,” Russell said.
The Cajuns actually led the Panthers (now 15-9, 8-5) by as much as 15 points with 8:35 left in the first half.
But Georgia State ended the first half strong and parlayed that into an 18-4 run to grab a 44-43 lead with 16:55 left to play.
“We told them after an extended halftime that the first five minutes were going to be crucial,” Marlin said. “They were going to come out with energy that they didn’t have to start the game.
“And sure enough they did.”
It was typical UL-Georgia State craziness. The Panthers actually built as big as a 13-point lead with 9:30 left to play.
Somehow the Cajuns didn’t wilt under the pressure. It was the fifth time UL won a game this season after trailing by double figures.
“It’s a game of runs whether you’re home or the road,” Russell said. “Guys are going to have their momentum at times. The crowd got into it and helped us get it back.
“We just persevered and stayed through. We took that punch and we fought back.”
Incredibly, UL found itself on the opposite end of a desperation attempt in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 30. Dou Gueye nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer after a full-length pass from Hardy.
“After we completed the play for No. 1 on ESPN, the next morning I went over with the guys how to guard that play,” Marlin said. “This is what you’ve got to do.”
Georgia State’s long pass with 1.9 seconds left wasn’t caught and trickled harmlessly out of bounds.
“He threw a good pass and it just went right through his hands,” Marlin said. “They were going to try to get Wilson on a corner shot. But I didn’t think they were going to score anyway, just like (UTA coach) Chris Ogden didn’t think we’d score last week. With two seconds and the length of the floor, you got to like your chances.”