Perhaps it’s fitting it came in the program’s history 50th season.
And perhaps it’s fitting that it came after the extreme disappointment of the coronavirus ending last year’s season right before the Sun Belt’s final four in New Orleans.
Despite all the obstacles from a COVID-19 season, the UL Ragin’ Cajuns somehow established the program’s new standard with a 10-game winning streak after Thursday’s 65-51 win over ULM at the Cajundome.
“You do it for people,” UL coach Garry Brodhead said. “I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of good people. I got to coach with one of the best baseball coaches in the world. The things that he helped me through these losing times … we had some 10-game losing streaks. To have a Tony Robichaux patting you on the back and motivating you, those things are special to me. I remember those moments.”
The Cajuns are now 11-5 overall and 10-1 in Sun Belt play, while the Warhawks dropped to 2-15 and 0-11.
The two teams will meet again at 1 p.m. Saturday in Monroe.
“This team I think is special,” Brodhead said. “I walk all around Lafayette. I’m all over Lafayette and there’s still some people that don’t know that we’re doing this. That’s kind of disappointing. As we win, these kids have got to get recognized, man … this program. When you’re winning, you’re a winner, no matter which sport you play.”
The game actually began with bad news with senior star center Ty’Reona Doucet leaving the game just 26 seconds into it with an apparent ankle injury. She didn’t return to the bench area until the fourth quarter with a boot on her left foot.
“She stepped on somebody’s foot and twisted her ankle,” Brodhead said. “I think she’s going to be alright.”
That meant somebody had to step up and sophomore guard Makayia Hallmon quickly took charge.
Hallmon scored 10 points in the first quarter to help UL build a 19-7 lead with 1:25 left in the opening period.
Hallmon finished the first half with 14 points, although the second quarter was a poor one for UL defensively.
Without Doucet swatting shots in the paint, ULM attacked the basket with success and was able to cut UL’s lead to 31-27 by the half.
But Hallmon seven points early in the third quarter helped UL build a 39-27 lead just three minutes into it and the Cajuns never looked back.
“She was coming off a 21-point night and I was like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to need her this night’,” Hallmon said of Doucet's injury. “So it was kind of scary, because I really didn’t know what injury it was.
“I was like, ‘Somebody’s got to step up and score the ball tonight.’ ”
Hallmon finished with 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field, along with five rebounds and two steals. All of that was in only 19:54 minutes on the court.
“After the first layup, I started feeling it,” Hallmon said. “I just let the game continue to come to me. I didn’t rush anything, just let it come to me.
“I still have a lot of growing to do. I’m not as comfortable as I would like to be right now, but it’s all coming along.”
Only one other Cajun shot over 50% from the field - Caira Wren off the bench inside at 3-for-4 for six points – and only one other Cajun in double figures was Skyler Goodwin with 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field, along with three rebounds and three assists.
Brandi Williams was 1-of-7 from the field, but made all six of her free throws to contribute eight points.
“I know she scored some points, but we kind of expect that from her,” Brodhead said of Hallmon. “Her defense is better. When her defense is better, it makes her not have to worry about the offense. Today, she just looked more comfortable defensively.”
The Cajuns overcame 17 turnovers in the win, while forcing 18. The rebounding battle was even at 33-33.
“I think they don’t care who gets the credit, not a one of them,” Brodhead said. “They want to win. They want what’s best for each player. I think the biggest thing is we’re a good team. We may not have three or four players on the all-conference team, but we’re a good team that plays together.
“Then when we get our backs against the wall, we’ve got the Kim Burtons and Skyler Goodwins, they grab people and they kind of look them in the eye and say, ‘Hey, this is what we need.’ I hear them now saying what I say and they say it better than I can say it.”
ULM outscored UL 32-22 in the paint and 21-17 of the bench, but the Warhawks never led in the game.
“It feels great, especially since we’re on the collegiate level making history like that, it feels great,” Hallmon said.