Yet another milestone for UL-Lafayette’s basketball team, and the Ragin’ Cajuns didn’t need a heroic half-court shot this time.
The Cajuns put five players in double figures and turned in a strong effort on both ends of the floor, running away with an 80-59 win over state rival UL-Monroe on Saturday in Monroe.
It was their 10th straight conference win by a double-figure margin, extending a record streak in the Sun Belt’s 42-year history, and the win put the Cajuns at the 20-win plateau at the earliest point in school history by a wide margin.
The quickest UL-Lafayette (20-3, 10-0) had ever reached 20 wins came in the 1999-2000 season, when the Cajuns posted number 20 in a 72-64 win over Western Kentucky on Feb. 17. Saturday’s win beat that mark by two full weeks.
“To get to 20 this quick, that means something,” said Cajuns coach Bob Marlin, whose squad holds the nation’s ninth-best record — every team with a better mark is ranked in the top 20 — and eighth-longest win streak. “To get that and to win a 10th in a row, on this court, is really good, because this is a tough place to play.”
Things weren’t that tough for the Cajuns, who never trailed after jumping in front 8-0 and led by as many as 28 points in the final five minutes. UL-Lafayette has now won a school-record 16 straight Sun Belt games dating to last season and 17 in a row against Louisiana teams over the past three seasons.
It was a far cry from last year’s contest, when Johnathan Stove had to throw in a 50-footer at the final horn to allow the Cajuns to finish a rally from five points down with 12 seconds left for an 85-84 win.
Stove had 12 points this time as one of the five double-digit scorers. Frank Bartley led the way with 22 points, and Malik Marquetti added 17 points on 4-of-5 3-point shooting.
Bartley and Marquetti teamed for 24 first-half points, but the Warhawks (9-12, 3-7) refused to go away. ULM, which had won two straight in Sun Belt play for the first time in two seasons, cut what was an early 12-point Cajuns lead to five at halftime when Jordan Harris’ free throw made it 38-33 at the break.
It was a seven-point game with 17 minutes left when Cajuns point guard Marcus Stroman picked up his third foul and a quick technical, giving him four personal fouls and sending him to the bench. But after ULM’s Sam McDaniel hit one of two free throws, UL-Lafayette went on a 14-0 run over the next 4:20.
Bartley had six points in that run, and his two free throws with 12:41 left put the Cajuns up 59-38. ULM never got closer than 15 points after that, and another 10-0 UL-Lafayette run was capped by two straight Bryce Washington baskets that provided the biggest lead at 80-52 with 3:57 left.
Washington had a game-high nine rebounds to go with 12 points, missing his 10th double-double by one board, and JaKeenan Gant had 14 points while blocking a career-high six shots.
“There’s nothing better than to have him go in and get a block and return to sender,” Marlin said of Gant, the Sun Belt’s blocked shots leader. “All of them were big momentum-changing plays.”
Gant’s blocks were part of a defensive effort that held the Warhawks to 37.9 shooting, including 2 of 15 outside the arc. ULM entered leading the Sun Belt in 3-point percentage (.380) and hit 17 3-pointers in back-to-back home wins over Troy and South Alabama last week. The Warhawks also had averaged almost 79 points per Sun Belt home game this season.
“They’re a good shooting team,” Marlin said, “but we played good defense. We had only one first-half stretch when we didn’t defend when we needed to. We did a really good job on McDaniel, (Michael) Ertel and (Travis) Munnings; they can score and they’ve been really good at home.”
That threesome had combined to average 41 points per game, but McDaniel had seven points before fouling out, Ertel eight and Munnings 14. The three were only 11 of 33 from the floor and 1 for 10 from 3-point range. Jordan Harris came off the bench to lead the Warhawks with 16.
Stroman played only 17 minutes with the foul trouble but still had seven assists, leading the Cajuns to 23 assists on 29 field goals. Other than Stroman, who attempted only one shot, every other Cajun starter hit better than 50 percent, with Washington and Gant combining to go 12 of 16 from the field.
“Everybody that played double-figure minutes had an assist,” Marlin said, “and that’s what we like. We shared the ball and made the extra pass. We want the ball moving and have energy, when we do that we’re a better team. When we make shots and defend, we’re a good basketball team.”