Louisiana-Lafayette and Richmond swapped long and significant runs in the second half, but fortunately for the Ragin’ Cajun men’s basketball squad its run came near the end.
The Cajuns rallied back from a six-point deficit in the final seven minutes, using a 12-0 run to take their own six-point lead, and then made free throws down the stretch to post an 82-76 win over Richmond Wednesday in the third-place game of the Cayman Islands Classic.
UL-Lafayette (4-2) finished 2-1 in the inaugural event, beating Iowa in the opening round before falling to Wyoming Tuesday in the semifinals. Wyoming faced Cincinnati in Wednesday night’s championship game.
“To come down here and win two games against this field is good for us,” said Cajun coach Bob Marlin. “We didn’t play very good in the first half, but in the second we were able to take advantage of some things and we made some big defensive plays.”
The Cajuns trailed most of the first half and were down 34-30 at halftime, but made up that deficit early and took as much as an eight-point lead midway through the second half on two Frank Bartley free throws.
However, the Spiders (1-4) exploded with 14 unanswered points over the next three minutes, and had a 66-60 edge with seven minutes left on a free throw from Solly Stansbury.
That’s when UL-Lafayette went on its own run, one spurred by six quick points from JaKeenan Gant. His jumper began the 12-0 run and his two free throws tied the game at 66 with 6:05 left. After a Cajun steal, Gant had a dunk for a two-point lead, and Marcus Stroman had a steal and layup at the 4:23 mark for a 72-66 advantage.
Richmond’s Nick Sherod answered moments later with a three-pointer, but the Spiders didn’t have another made field goal until eight seconds remained.
During that stretch, the Cajuns made good use of a zone press and a sagging zone that forced misses and turnovers on 11 of 13 Richmond possessions down the stretch.
“We had to do it on the defensive end after they had the run,” Marlin said. “We put on a little zone to try to get some rest and change the momentum, and they got a little tentative when we got into the zone.”
The Cajuns made eight free throws in the final 47 seconds, four each by Bartley and Stroman and Richmond missed five straight shots until hitting a pair of treys in those final eight seconds.
Bartley, named to the All-Tournament team, finished with 23 points and was 9-of-9 from the line. Gant had 16 points, all but two of them in the second half, while Stroman and Justin Miller each had 15.
After a cold first half, the Cajuns shot 61 percent in the second half and were also 18-of-21 at the line.
Grant Golden led the Spiders with 24 points, but Jacob Gilyard was the only other Richmond player in double figures with 10. The Spiders only had three treys in 12 attempts before the two in the closing seconds.
“Both teams were good defensively early,” Marlin said. “I thought we had the game going the way we wanted, and lo and behold they had the run. JaKennan gave us some energy and got the momentum going our way, and they were in foul trouble and we were able to punch the ball and attack late. We did a really good job of getting to the line.”
The Cajuns return to action Tuesday when they host McNeese State at 7 p.m. at the Cajundome.