Cajuns’ Johnathan Stove cooking in chance to start _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- UL-Lafayette's Johnathan Stove drives against Milligan's Chris Ellis on Dec. 17, 2014 at the Cajundome.

LAFAYETTE — Wanting a little more grit in his starting lineup, Cajuns coach Bob Marlin turned to a freshman.

With senior guard Brian Williams not producing the way Marlin expects him to, Johnathan Stove earned a starting role in the Cajuns past two contests based on the ability to rebound and defend that he’s shown in practice.

“He’s one of our better defensive guards,” Marlin said.

Stove certainly showed some of that ability in a road win against Texas State, when he grabbed five rebounds and had a steal and two blocks on the defensive end.

The Cajuns may have been counting on Stove for his defensive presence, but he also showed an ability to produce on the offensive end, scoring a team-high 19 points in a highly efficient 7-for-10 night from the floor.

“It was certainly well received,” Marlin said. “We needed him to be aggressive. He had 15 at the half, and I don’t think he missed a shot. He played well and could’ve had a super game if things were falling right for him.”

Stove tailed off a bit offensively after his strong showing in the first half, but Marlin said his best play came at a clutch moment late in a tight game when he converted on a three-point play by attacking the rim and drawing a foul.

It’s not necessarily a permanent role for Stove. Marlin said, “We’ll see what happens this week” in regards to his starting lineup, but he was happy to see his young guard respond when his number was called.

“The faith has always been there, but to get more opportunity to play, it’s just that we weren’t getting production from Brian,” Marlin said. “So you go to the next man up. Johnathan is there, he’s ready, and we felt like he can help us defensively, and he can rebound.”

It sounds as if the same theory applies to Williams, who had started a team-high 20 games going into the Texas State contest but has played only a combined 13 minutes in the Cajuns past two games.

“He’s got to get better at that on the offensive end, and he’s got to play better defense. I didn’t think he defended well against South Alabama, so we didn’t play him,” Marlin said. “Stove got off to a great start and got his minutes the other day.

“I expect more from Brian, and hopefully we’ll get it.”

Reunion this weekend

The Cajuns host a reunion for the teams coached by Jim Hatfield and Bobby Paschal from 1974-86 this weekend. Hatfield was the Cajuns first coach after the program was not allowed to compete for two seasons because of NCAA sanctions.

There will be a reunion ceremony from 6-8 p.m. Friday at the alumni house, followed by a reception from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cajundome.

Those in attendance will have an autograph session from 12:30-1 p.m. in advance of the Cajuns 2 p.m. tip against UT-Arlington. Attendees will be announced later in the week.

“We’re excited about those two guys returning,” Marlin said. “Those two coaches are personal friends of mine, have been for a long time. They care a lot about this university and this basketball program, and we’re delighted to have them back and recognize them on a game that’s going to be televised on ESPN2.”