It took a while, perhaps a little longer than UL coach Bob Marlin and the couple hundred fans watching at the Cajundome would have like.
But when the hot shooting from LSU-Shreveport finally cooled of a bit and the UL Ragin’ Cajuns got on a roll defensively, any thoughts the NAIA Pilots entertained of an upset quickly vanished.
The Cajuns cruised to an 84-73 win after exploding for on a 29-8 run midway through the second half Saturday in the home opener.
UL’s win snapped the Pilots’ 22-game winning streak.
“We knew we’d get a really good basketball game from LSU-S, and we did,” UL coach Bob Marlin said.
Just like in Wednesday’s road win over UNO, it was the defense that bailed out the Cajuns (2-1).
“At the under 12-minute timeout, we switched to a man-to-man defense fullcourt and we got a couple of turnovers out of it,” Marlin said. “Then when we went to a zone defense one time later in the half — a zone press — we got a turnover off that. I think that threw them off balance a little bit and negated a big night from Kadavion Evans.”
Evans, a transfer from UL, finished with 24 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals.
“We took Kadavion’s assists away, and that helped us from a defensive standpoint,” Marlin said.
Some things got better for the Cajuns since Wednesday’s win, and some things didn’t.
For starters, the 3-point shooting still wasn’t good. UL only made 6 of 26 tries for 23.1%. Also, the turnovers were still too high at 17, especially considering the Pilots only had nine of their own.
Dou Gueye, however, turned in his best performance of the young season with 17 points, 11 rebounds and two assists in 29 minutes of play.
“It was great,” Marlin said. “I thought he played really hard. He rebounded the ball. He made a 3 early in the game to open the game — one of our first 3s. I thought he offensive rebounded and took good shots. He played good defense too. Dou’s been working really hard. He just needs to continue to rebound and be consistent. He’s going to score some points.”
Furthermore, there’s still no reason to believe that 6-foot-11 Portland transfer Theo Akwuba is going to be anything but an impact player. On Saturday, Akwuba was 6 of 6 from the field for 17 points along with 11 rebounds and two blocks.
“I’ve got to give that one to the coaches for putting us in the right positions and my teammates feeding me the ball and staying on me to attack the offensive glass and take simple, easy shots,” Akwuba said. “They’ve been putting an emphasis on not forcing (shots), because a forced shot is basically a turnover. Eliminate your forced shots and you eliminate your turnovers, so I just try to take the easy shots.”
Sophomore guard Mylik Wilson turned in another big effort as well with 14 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks.
“Coach told me I needed to get more rebounds than last game, so I was trying to go more this game,” Wilson said.
The other double-figure scorer was Brayan Au with 14 points, three rebounds and three assists.
The problem early on was UL turnovers after the Pilots began crowding the lane to defend Akwuba early on and also defending the 3-pointer.
“We were really over-helping sometimes when they were driving the paint and helping strong side,” Wilson said. “That’s why they were getting a lot of 3s off. They were getting touches in the paint and getting the kick-out 3, and a lot of those were wide-open 3s.”
After halftime, though, UL adjustments slowed down the Pilots’ 3-point shooting. They made just two after halftime and finished 9 of 31 for 37% behind the arc.
“We did not run these guys off the line like we were supposed to,” Marlin said. “They hit their first two or three and got some momentum. We just didn’t get to them. Again, they’ve won 22 in a row. They’ve got good players.
“In the second half, I felt like the changing defense and it was addressed pretty emphatically at halftime as well.”