The short-handed UL Ragin’ Cajuns played catch-up for 40 minutes against ULM on Thursday night at the Cajundome, and never got to the top of the mountain.
With point guard Brayan Au not dressed with an injury and long-range shooter Devin Butts not dressed due to a team suspension, the Cajuns fell behind by 17 points in the first half and was never fully able to recover in a 72-66 defeat at the hands of the Warhawks.
The loss was the third straight for UL, which dropped to 13-7 overall and 7-6 in league play, while ULM improved to 5-15 and 3-10. The win snapped a 10-game losing streak for the Warhawks.
“We didn’t overlook Arkansas State either,” UL coach Bob Marlin said. “This West division is pretty good. This isn’t football where the teams aren’t very good. These teams are good. Our side is better than the other side if you ask me. We said Monroe, just what I told you guys, six losses by 26. I’ve seen them lose so many games last minute, last possession. We knew we would get Monroe’s best shot and we did.
“We’re disappointed. I know our fans are disappointed. I’m disappointed too, but we lost to a Division I basketball team that was overdue to put it mildly.”
The two teams will now play again at 4 p.m. Saturday in Monroe.
“We’ve been shorthanded this whole year,” Marlin said. “We haven’t been full strength in three years. We thought we had enough, but losing Brayan is a big blow. We had four freshmen on the court in the first half. We’ve got an older team, but we’ve had to play some different lineups. We just have to play through it.”
After only hitting one shot in the game’s first 9:53, the Cajuns rebounded enough to shoot 38.7% from the field, compared to 45.5 for ULM.
The Warhawks hit 11 of 26 attempts from 3-point land for 42.3%, while the Cajuns only made five of 16 tries behind the arc for 31.3%.
Russell Harrison led ULM with 17 points and 10 rebounds to pace four Warhawks in double figures. The other three were Koreem Ozier with 15 points of 3-of-7 shooting from 3-point land, Elijah Gonzales with 12 points and Thomas Howell with 11.
The Cajuns also had four in double figures, led by Mylik Wilson and Cedric Russell with 13 points apiece. Dou Gueye was next with 12 points in only 18:02 minutes, while Theo Akwuba had 10 points and 12 rebounds in 29 minutes.
The Cajuns never led in the game. They were able to cut it to three points twice down the stretch and to four several times as well, but could never catch the Warhawks.
“I think it was kind of both,” Russell said when asked if UL overlooked ULM or were just shorthanded. “We’ve got a lot of young guys. Coach tried to stress it and me too after playing against those guys for four years. Their record never indicates how good a team can be, especially at this level. Anybody can beat anybody at the end of the day.”