Cajuns Clinch Share of Sun Belt Title in Marlin’s 500th Win
Make room for another championship banner in the Cajundome.
And, while you're at it, make a little room in the trophy case as well.
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns clinched at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference regular season championship with an 81-76 win over Troy Thursday night at the Trojan Arena in Troy, AL.
And, in addition to the team reaching a milestone, Cajuns' head coach Bob Marlin hit one of his own.
The win was Marlin's 500th in his career as a head coach spanning 25 years. And, 152 of them have come as the Cajuns' head coach, now in his eighth season.
"It takes a lot of people to win a championship," Marlin said. Our administration has supported this program, our fans have been a part of this, and especially our assistant coaches and our players."
Frank Bartley scored 22 points to lead the Cajuns (24-4, 14-1) in scoring, while JaKeenan Gant added 19 points and Justin Miller chipped in ten off the bench. Bartley is now 25 points shy of reaching 1,000 points as a Cajun. Bryce Washington snared ten rebounds and now is just four boards away from passing Marcus Stokes for third place in Cajuns' history.
Wesley Person led Troy (13-15, 7-8) with 21 points, while Alex Hicks had a double double with 14 points and ten rebounds. Freshman Javan Johnson hit four triples for twelve points.
The Cajuns outshot the Trojans 46.8% to 42.2%, but Troy hit 13-28 from the bonusphere to keep them in the game. The Cajuns won the battle of the boards decisively, out boarding the Trojans 46-30.
"We told our guys defense and rebounding would win this game tonight," Marlin said. We had a few breakdowns but overall we did a really good job on defense and we out rebounded them by 16. We lost Person a couple of times, but overall I thought Frank (Bartley) really did a good job on him. And, Bryce (Washington) pretty much shut (Jordan) Varnado down when he was in there."
Varnado, a preseason first team all conference selection, got in early foul trouble and scored only five points in 21 minutes, making just 2-8 from the field.
The Cajuns jumped out to an early 7-0 lead after a Marcus Stroman jumper, a Gant tip in and a Bartley triple and took their biggest lead of the half, 14-5 after a Gant layup. But Troy came back to tie the game at 22 after back to back threes by Kevin Baker and Juan Davis, Jr. Troy could not get the lead, however and Louisiana led by five points, 39-34 at the half.
Malik Marquetti hit the first bucket of the second half to get the lead to seven points, but Hicks hit a jumper and Johnson followed with back to back threes to give the Trojans their only lead of the game, 42-41 with 16:49 to play, before Bartley scored on an old fashioned three point play to give the Cajuns the lead for good.
Louisiana used an 11-2 run to build a ten point lead with 11:32 to go but Person quickly trimmed the lead to four with back to back threes. Louisiana enjoyed its biggest lead, 70-57 after a 9-2 run capped by a Miller layup at the 6:59 mark. But Johnson and B. J. Miller hit back to back triples, Person made a layup and Johnson hit another one from long range to cap an 11-0 run to get Troy within two points with 3:39 to play and was still only down two with 1:03 left before a Washington layup and seven of eight free throws held the Trojans at bay.
"Our guys really weren't celebrating in the locker room," Marlin said. "We've reached only one of our goals and we have more goals in front of us."
The Cajuns can achieve the next goal of winning the league outright and clinching the #1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament with a win on Saturday at South Alabama.