Louisiana Breaks Losing Streak With Close 78-77 Road Win Over ULM
Forward Kobe Julien hit a clutch game-winning free throw, and the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns men's basketball team broke their losing streak with a 78-77 victory on the road against the UL-Monroe Warhawks.
With the win, Louisiana improved to 11-13 overall and 6-8 in Sun Belt play. They moved up to eighth place in the conference standings. Head coach Bob Marlin complimented his team's composure late in a close contest.
"We stayed positive during timeouts," Marlin said. "We had a great defensive stop, and we were able to bring the ball up with a great play drawn. Kobe made a great play driving to the basket and we were able to score."
Marlin added that the victory was a good step for the team to gain confidence late in the season.
"What a game tonight," Marlin said. "It's fantastic with a rivalry game on rivalry week. This group has played hard all year, and with a couple of breaks we'd be right there in the middle of this race. Unfortunately, we'll have to go do it in the tournament, but today was a good first step."
The Warhawks were effective from the field to start, but the Cajuns used three early three-pointers, including two from starting guard Brayan Au to hold a 12-11 lead.
Louisiana hit four of five shots, but UL-Monroe answered with a 10-0 run to earn their largest lead at 25-18. The Warhawks offense hit 11 of their first 18 shots from the field for a 61% shooting percentage. Finally, Cajuns forward Jordan Brown ended that run with a layup, and forward Dou Gueye hit a jumper to get Louisiana within three. Two straight threes by guard Jalen Dalcourt put the Cajuns in front 28-27.
A dunk, three-pointer, and two free throws by Brown extended the run to 17-2. Louisiana took full advantage of a six-minute scoring drought by the Warhawks. Cajuns guard Kentrell Garnett continued the streak with a steal and three-pointer.
UL-Monroe scored the last four points of the first half to break a seven-minute stretch without a made field goal, but the dominant 19-0 run by Louisiana had them entering halftime with a 10-point, 41-31 lead.
Brown had 17 first half points for the Cajuns, but the best story of the half for Louisiana fans was good ball movement. The Cajuns out-scored the Warhawks 12-4 on points off of turnovers. They had 13 assists to only two turnovers in the first half while forcing nine turnovers by UL-Monroe.
The Warhawks opened the second half on a 12-5 run to get within three points, but Julien hit his second three-pointer of the night. The Cajuns were once again able to answer when UL-Monroe got within one possession. This time, Brown's layup made it 57-52 midway through the second half. Dalcourt hit a pair of free throws, and the Warhawks responded with a three.
Louisiana had an offensive answer each time UL-Monroe got the game within one possession. They consistently kept a five point lead for most of the second half, and Julien made it 69-62 with a steal and a layup. Dalcourt continued his stellar night with his fourth three followed by a steal and a fast-break dunk.
However, a three-pointer and a three-point play had UL-Monroe within one possession again at 74-71. Two more free throws by the Warhawks diminished the lead to one, and the Cajuns went on a late scoring drought that lasted nearly four minutes.
An offensive foul by Brown became a turnover, and UL-Monroe took their first lead since the first half on two more made free throws. The Warhawks didn't hit a single field goal in that 7-0 run to take the lead. All of their points came from the free throw line. Garnett missed the first free throw of a one-and-one, but Gueye got the offensive rebound before getting fouled. However, he split the two shots at the charity stripe and tied the game with just over a minute remaining.
A layup by UL-Monroe made it 77-75 before Marlin called a timeout. Brown hit two clutch free throws to tie it again.
The Warhawks missed a jumper, giving the Cajuns a chance to win the game at the buzzer. With two seconds remaining in regulation, Julien was fouled. He hit the first free throw to give Louisiana the lead, and he intentionally missed the second to force UL-Monroe to try a full-court heave. They missed, and, despite going the final five minutes without a made field goal, the Cajuns held to claim a road win and break their losing streak.
At times in the second half, Louisiana struggled at the free throw line. However, Julien and Brown made three huge shots at the stripe, and the team finished 11-18 on free throws. The Cajuns had a good game passing the ball. They finished with 20 assists to only seven turnovers, and Marlin was clearly happy with that statistic.
"The best thing is that we had seven turnovers," Marlin said. "We really took care of the basketball and that helped. We missed a couple of free throws in the second half. We missed the last one on purpose, but that was our best miss of the year for sure."
Louisiana had three scorers in double figures in the win. Brown finished with 26 points to lead the team, but Dalcourt scored 16 with four three-pointers and Julien added 15.
Up next, the Cajuns will hope to sweep the regular season series against the Warhawks when they come to the Cajundome on Saturday, Feb. 19 at 7:00 p.m.