Louisiana Basketball Sweeps UL-Monroe With 79-74 Senior Day Win
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns men's basketball team swept the regular season series against the UL-Monroe Warhawks with a 79-74 victory on senior day at the Cajundome.
With the win, Louisiana improved to 12-13 overall and 7-8 in Sun Belt play. It's the first winning streak the Cajuns have had since they started 3-0 in the conference. With the results today, Louisiana sits at seventh place in the Sun Belt, but the middle of the league is packed with teams at six, seven, or eight wins, so the final weekend of the regular season should have plenty of movement.
The Cajuns were out-played in the first half, but they came out after the break and dominated the Warhawks in the final 20 minutes. After the game, head coach Bob Marlin shared the message he told his team at halftime.
"I told the guys in the locker room that they (ULM) can't play better," Marlin said. "They made big shots and we didn't make shots. In the second half, we were able to get the ball where we wanted it. We drove it. I thought Kobe had a tremendous second half, and we made our free throws. We did what we needed to do to win this game."
Cajuns forward Dou Gueye was honored on senior day pregame, because it was his final game in the Cajundome.
Guard Jalen Dalcourt and forward Theo Akwuba combined for a quick nine points on 4-4 shooting. The Cajuns had an 11-7 lead, but UL-Monroe hit four of five shot attempts, including a pair of three-pointers. At the first official's timeout, the Warhawks were up 12-11.
Coming out of the timeout, Louisiana went on a 7-0 run sparked by a pair of shots by Gueye. Both teams were incredibly even in the first 10 minutes of game time. Midway through the first half, Louisiana's lead was 20-18. The Cajuns were 8-15 to start and the Warhawks were 7-15.
However, Louisiana went on a five minute stretch where they hit only one of 12 shot attempts, allowing UL-Monroe to take the lead. Finally, guard Trajan Wesley hit a layup and was fouled. He added the free throw for the three-point play to give the Cajuns the lead back at 25-24.
After the game was tied at 27, the Cajuns went on a three minute scoring drought. The Warhawks took advantage with a 12-0 run. Forward Kobe Julien finally broke it with a three-pointer, but Louisiana entered halftime trailing 39-30.
The Cajuns were excellent in the second half. They shot over 60% from the field after the break and held UL-Monroe to 35% shooting. That, combined with good free throw shooting, allowed Louisiana to battle back into the game and continuously put pressure on the Warhawks.
UL-Monroe hit their first two shot attempts of the second half, but they went on a three minute scoring drought where they missed seven straight shots. During that time, the Cajuns went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 44-40.
Two free throws by Gueye extended the run to 8-0, but UL-Monroe responded with their own 9-0 run to capture their largest lead at 11 points. Julien hit a three to end the run and cut the Warhawks lead to 53-45. The Cajuns got within two points again before UL-Monroe scored five straight.
Wesley and Julien combined for five points to bring the lead back down to two points again at 58-56 with less than eight minutes remaining, and an offensive foul by the Warhawks turned the ball over. This time, on an offensive rebound, Dalcourt got a big dunk to tie the game.
The Cajuns hit five consecutive shots to tie it again at 66. Marlin called a timeout with four minutes left. Louisiana had a chance to take their first lead of the second half after UL-Monroe missed a three, but they turned it over. On the other end, Akwuba got a big block to set up a Julien drive where he was fouled. Julien hit both free throws to give the Cajuns the lead.
Following a field goal by the Warhawks, the game became a free throw shooting contest for a span of time. Dalcourt hit two, UL-Monroe answered with two to tie it, and Julien hit two more. Akwuba fouled out on a questionable foul on a block. This time, the Warhawks split the free throws, so the Cajuns still had the lead with just over a minute remaining.
Freshman guard Michael Thomas scored on a layup, and then the Cajuns got a steal. On the other end, a missed lay in on a fast break kept the margin at three points, but UL-Monroe bricked the game-tying three-pointer. Julien got the rebound and Marlin called a timeout with 36 seconds left.
Julien hit his ninth and 10th free throws after getting fouled to earn his career-best 26th point of the game. The Warhawks missed another three, and Gueye got the rebound before being fouled. Gueye split the two shots from the line, and, with only 16 seconds remaining, the Cajuns increased their lead to 77-71.
After UL-Monroe got within three on a three-pointer, Louisiana was able to get the inbounds pass to Dalcourt who was fouled and hit both of his free throws. The Cajuns went on to win 79-74, completing the second-half comeback.
Louisiana hit six of their last seven shot attempts in the game, but they were excellent at the free throw line as well. As a team, they made 22 of their 27 attempts from the stripe, and Julien was 10-10 by himself. Julien had a career-high 26 points and 10 rebounds, and Gueye added 10 points and seven rebounds in his final game in the Cajundome.
Dalcourt had a season-high 17 points for the Cajuns after learning pregame that his grandmother had passed away. Marlin talked about what happened before the game with Dalcourt.
"We hugged him and told him we loved him," Marlin said. "We told him it was up to him. If he wanted to stay and play, that was fine. If he wanted to go home, we wanted to know how we could help him. He chose to stay and play, and boy are we glad he did. He was a difference maker. This is three games in a row he's earned more minutes and he's making the most of his opportunity."
Up next, Louisiana travels to Georgia for the final two games of the regular season. They start off with a game against the Georgia Southern Eagles on Wednesday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. The Eagles have lost five straight conference games and sit at 4-10 in the Sun Belt.