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UL's JaKeenan Gant (23), shown here dunking in a win over ULM, is the only player in America averaging at least 20.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game.

The motivations to beat the ULM Warhawks were many in UL-Lafayette head coach Bob Marlin’s mind.

Marcus Stroman led the charge to make it happen.

In the final 10 minutes of play, the senior point guard was either throwing up alley oop passes to teammate JaKeenan Gant for slam dunks, or driving to the basket for layups.

The result was the Ragin’ Cajuns holding off ULM’s constant comeback threats for an 83-76 victory Saturday at the Cajundome.

“It’s important because it was a home game, it was Monroe and we’ve got a reunion game,” Marlin said. “We’ve got former players here. There were a lot of positives in this win.

“But to get even (at 6-6 in Sun Belt play), protect our home court and continue to play well. From that standpoint, every game is huge.

We’re going to try to position ourselves for a good seed in the conference tournament.”

No one did more to make all of those things happen than Stroman.

Not only did he lead the Cajuns (15-10) in scoring with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, but he also had nine assists, four rebounds and two steals in a productive 38 minutes of play.

“He did a great job,” Marlin said of Stroman’s performance. “Early in the second half for sure going to the basket and answering each call that they had. He finished and really did a nice job. That was the key to the game.”

In a two-minute stretch in the second half, Stroman got the 5,041 on hand at the Cajundome into the game with two highlight-reel alley oop passes for Gant slam dunks.

“JaKeenan’s dunks were crucial,” Marlin said. “They helped us get a (61-48 lead at 8:52 mark) lead.”

For Stroman and Gant, who finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, the electrifying play comes easily.

“I’ve been knowing Kee (JaKeenan Gant) since high school, so it’s just natural,” Stroman said. “I know he’s going to go get it.”

Gant said the communication between the two on the court comes in a variety of ways.

“It’s anything,” he said, but sometimes it’s a simple as a “little throw it up” signal with his finger.

Stroman also made his penetration game look pretty easy as well.

“I just saw the game flowing,” he said. “I just kept attacking and kept making shots.

“It was different people guarding me, but I was just seeing the rim and kept attacking.”

Stroman also played a big role in the Cajun defense limited ULM standouts Daishon Smith and Michael Ertel to a combined 13-for-34 from the field and 37 points.

“I feel like we were more aggressive on them, not giving them open looks,” Stroman said. “We played 94 feet against them and they didn’t make shots tonight.”

Marlin likes to think it was a result of two very productive practices during the week.

“First of all, we didn’t give them transition baskets,” Marlin explained. “Outside the offensive rebounds, we turned and looked instead of staying attached. But that’s really it, we stayed next to them and were determined to not let them go for 50-something like we did in Monroe.”

Stroman even did his fair share of coaching on the court, like a good senior point guard is often capable of.

“We called a lot of set plays tonight and I thought our guys really executed,” Marlin said. “We got it and they delivered. We did a good job of executing. The communication was good.

“There was a couple times I did not call a play and they know what to run normally and Marcus jumped up and called what was in my head. That’s the relationship we have.”

With the win, the Cajuns are now involved in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Sun Belt race with Coastal Carolina and ULM with six games left.

Next up is the two-game Texas swing against two teams ahead of the Cajuns in the standings in UTA and Texas State.

“We just have to keep playing defense and keep going at each other in practice,” Gant said.


Follow Kevin Foote on Twitter, @FooteNote.

Sports Editor