Perhaps all it took was starting the game 30 minutes late.
After three consecutive splits in Sun Belt play, it seemingly took a little something different to turn the tide for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns.
Due to a shot clock malfunction, Saturday’s game didn’t begin until shortly after 4:30 p.m., and then coach Bob Marlin’s squad delivered one of its best shooting nights of the season in a 77-74 win over Arkansas State at the Cajundome.
"We had to toughen it out," UL senior Cedric Russell said. "The pressure is always on the team that won the first game. Those guys didn't want to be beat and they showed that tonight. They played all the way until the final horn. It's just about being the tougher team and being able to stay through the hard times and the adversity."
The win secured the first league sweep of the season, leaving the Cajuns 11-4 overall and 5-3 in Sun Belt play. Arkansas State dropped to 5-8 and 2-4.
UL will next play at Texas State next weekend.
It wasn’t just UL’s 11-of-16 shooting from 3-point land that was unique in Saturday’s contest.
It was definitely a different experience at the Cajundome on Saturday. With no shot clock, the public address announcer had to countdown the shot clock at 25, 20, 15, 10 and then second by second over the final 10 seconds.
"I thought our PA announcer at the table did an excellent job with it, being thrust into that position," Marlin said. "It was unfortunate that it happened. It delayed the game some. It was something I hope we get corrected, so we don't have to do this again anywhere."
Ironically, there was only one shot-clock violation in the game.
"We were still focused on the task at hand," Russell said of the distraction of no shot clock. "This whole year has been full of uncertainty. We couldn't hang our hat on that and we didn't."
The Cajuns also had something up their sleeve for the Red Wolves in terms of personnel in Jacobi Gordon. Gordon wowed the Cajundome crowd with an impressive 11-point surge between 15:49 and 13:00 in the first half. During that stretch, Gordon nailed a trio of 3-pointers and a jumper from the free throw line to vault UL to a 20-8 lead.
Gordon wasn’t alone being hot in the first half, though. Overall, the Cajuns nailed seven of 11 tries behind the arc in the first half and shot 60.7 percent overall from the field.
"I hit the first one and I started to feel it," Gordon said. "It just came to me. I was locked in from warmups to when the game started. I had my teammates to encourage me the whole time we were warming up."
Gordon finished with 14 points, making all five of his attempts from the field and all four of his 3-point attempts.
Russell finished with 14 as well behind 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point land.
After leaning heavily on 6-foot-11 center Theo Akwuba in Friday’s 81-68 win, the Cajuns waited until later in the first half before attacking the basket with him.
The result was three straight buckets between 8:02 and 5:59 to build UL’s lead to 34-17. Akwuba collected eight points on 4-of-5 shooting in the first half with six boards.
Akwuba ended the game with 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
"I definitely believe that Theo, with the big game he had yesterday (Friday), he opened up a lot for a lot of us that hit shots today," Gordon explained.
The Cajuns came out hot in the second half, with Russell nailing a 3-pointer just 15 seconds after intermission. Five minutes later, Dou Gueye’s bucket gave UL a 55-35 left.
But it wouldn’t be that easy. Christian Willis was Arkansas State’s curve ball off the bench with 3-pointers at 14:53 and later at 7:14 to cut UL’s lead to 66-57.
"We lost focus offensively, but more importantly, defensively," Marlin said. "At one stretch, we gave up 11 of 15 baskets on the other end."
Then when Willis nailed yet another one with 2:24 left, suddenly Arkansas State only trailed 73-70.
But the Cajuns got three clutch free throws in the final minute from freshman Ty Harper that helped secure the three-point win. Harper added 11 points in 17 minutes off the bench, while Mylik Wilson was the fifth double-figure scorer with 12 points and five assists.
The Red Wolves never led in the game. Also, the win was the 14th in the last 16 against Arkansas State at the Cajundome.
"I felt like we had more energy (than previous Saturdays)," Marlin said. "We were better rested. We got a great night's sleep. We subbed a little bit more. I thought we stayed fresh for the most part."