From the Bird’s Nest: I’m out of fingers
Heading to the Dome yesterday just before five, I had the Black-Eyed Peas on my mind.
“I gotta feelin’….that tonight’s gonna be a good night….tonight’s gonna be a good good night.”
I didn’t know if part of that good night would be a win or not, but with the excitement of Louisiana basketball, the final home game, senior night and a battle for first place in the Sun Belt Western Division, this was going to be fun.
Upon arriving at the ‘ Dome, I went to the media work room. I was a little frustrated after realizing during the day that I somehow lost my basketball scorebook. It’s one that I designed myself and it affords me the opportunity to give quick stats as the game goes on. I’ve got a section for free throws/attempts, scoring averages, free throw percentages, career and season high totals and other things that make the broadcast flow smoothly. I think I may have removed it from my bag while in Thibodaux for Wednesday’s baseball game and left it there. Very frustrating. So I had to use a makeshift scoresheet provided by the SID department.
Got that done, had a bite to eat (they had Posada’s and Texas Roadhouse in the media room) and went up to visit with Coach Marlin. There was so much on the line in the game itself and he was finishing game prep when I arrived. We finished our pregame interview and it was time to go into the ‘Dome. I had no equipment setup since Steve Peloquin was broadcasting the women’s game except for a wireless microphone that we would use for the senior ceremony.
Coach Bob Marlin made the decision that senior ceremonies would be held earlier than usual. In the past, UL had honored the seniors prior to the national anthem. But Marlin knew it was going to be emotional for seniors Randall Daigle, Travis Bureau and La’Ryan Gary. He wanted to honor them, then get them into the locker room and give them time to get their emotions in check before taking the court against a Denver team that is so very tough to play. It was absolutely the right decision.
I have to say that this group of seniors have been special to me. They’re a talented bunch. They’re good guys. And, they really hadn’t been rewarded with a ton of victories in their careers. I turned things over to the PA announcer and it was probably a good thing. I had a lot of emotions watching the coaches, players and their families.
Denver doesn’t win a lot of road games. The key is to get off to a good start against them. They’re not a good come-from-behind team because of the pattered offense they run. But if you let them stay with you early, you’d better strap it on, because they’re going to be there at the end.
For the first time in the last three games, the Cajuns didn’t get off to a great start. Uh-oh. It was going to be one of those games. The Cajuns trailed at the half for the first time since trailing by one at Florida International. The last time they trailed at the half at home was against Arkansas-Little Rock.
The Cajuns stayed with Denver in the second half, but trailed most of the way. They trailed at the 5:00 mark of the second half. Only once all season had the Cajuns won a game when trailing with five minutes left. That was at South Alabama, a game that they won in overtime.
But the Cajuns would never have gotten to overtime had it not been for two pieces of good fortune. Brett Stafford, who torched the Cajuns for 24 points in a Cajuns double-overtime win as a freshman two years ago, inexplicably missed two free throws down the stretch. Stafford is an 86% free throw shooter. The odds of him missing both were pretty much unthinkable. I’m going to credit the students behind the goal with an assist on that one. The other came in the last possession of regulation. Raymone Andrews did a great job guarding Denver’s Chase Hallam and Hallam missed an off balance shot in the lane. Freshman Chris Udofia had rebounding position but missed an easy tip that would have broken the Cajuns’ streak and the hearts of the players and fans.
In retrospect, in visiting with Denver announcer Mitch Hyder and SID Mike Kennedy after the game, we theorized that Udofia might have hestitated just a split second. Time was running out and Udofia was in position to dunk the rebound. But he didn’t know how close the buzzer was to sounding the end of regulation and decided at the last minute to tip it. That hesitation might have been just enough for the ball to hit both sides of the rim and bound away.
After Denver got the first basket, it was all Cajuns. And, it was fitting that La’Ryan Gary would score seven of the Cajuns’ eight points in the overtime period. The Cajuns, just as they did in the overtime win at South Alabama, kept Denver off the scoreboard down the stretch. In the last nine minutes, counting the end of regulation and in overtime, the Pioneers got one field goal, that coming on overtime’s first possession.
Following the win, the team continued the tradition of singing the fight song with the student section. After that was done and it was time for the team to head to the locker room, I saw La’Ryan Gary, tears streaming down his face.
But this time it wasn’t from pain, but rather from accomplishment.
I’m now out of fingers. I only have ten and that’s where the streak stands. I guess I’ll have to take off a shoe and show a big toe if the Cajuns win on Saturday.
I’m also out of fingernails. These guys are killing me. But it sure is fun.
It was, in fact, a good good night.