Ragin’ Cajuns Beat ULM On A Heave And A Prayer
The Warhawks thought they buried Louisiana, but the Ragin' Cajuns didn't let ULM throw the last shovel full of dirt on their grave.
With 3.8 seconds left on the clock, the Warhawks were at the free throw line with a chance to ice the game. Two makes would have given them the four point lead and a win over their rivals, but the Ragin' Cajuns didn't give up hope. Roderick Taylor missed the first shot, then he missed the second.
When the ball came off the rim, Louisiana snatched it up and got the ball to Johnathan Stove, who threw up a prayer from half-court. His prayer was answered, and the Ragin' Cajuns snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, 85-84.
Head Coach Bob Marlin gave his players the instructions on how to finish out the game, and they followed them to a tee. He wanted to put Taylor on the line, and PJ Hardy hopped on his back after Kadavion Evans made a huge free throw to finish off an and-one. After that, all the chips fell into place for an incredible, dramatic finish,
"We got the rebound, I told the guys they had time for three dribbles, and Johnathan got to half court, I thought he picked it up too quick, and he took an extra dribble and he shot it, but it worked out the way we wanted to. It was a good ending," Marlin said.
After Stove's shot went in, the rest of the team mobbed him at the end of the court, while the Warhawks watched their dogpile in disbelief. Louisiana was down by double-digits several times in the second half, but it's the finish that counts.
Not only did Stove hit the buzzer-beater, he also hit two huge free throws in the final minute after struggling from the line earlier in the game. He finished with 17 points, but it's the last three he will remember the most.
It was also Jay Wright's last trip to Monroe, and he made the most of it. Marlin said Wright played possibly the best game he's ever had in a Louisiana jersey.
Wright led all scorers with 28 points (10-19 FG, 2-5 3-pt, 6-7 FT), and he rained home a three in the late barrage for the Ragin' Cajuns that brought them back in striking distance, and harassed the Warhawks defensively all game long and collected three steals.
In a game where Bryce Washington was held to two points and five rebounds, the rest of the team stepped up. Wright set the tone, Justin Miller chipped in 12 points and the bench contributed 17 to the effort...and Stove provided the dagger.
To give credit where credit is due, the Warhawks played an excellent game. Senior Nick Coppola put in 13 points and five assists, and he hit a late layup, plus the foul, that could have sunk the Cajuns' ship. It was a valiant effort from one of the Sun Belt's grittiest guards, but Louisiana pulled the win right out from under him.
The Warhawks also had 42 bench points, including 17 from Prince Cooper, who went into the game averaging less than three points per game. They did everything right, except for finishing the game.
It's a loss that stings for the Warhawks, but the sweet satisfaction for Louisiana is exactly what they needed. They endured a rocky road in conference play, and this win brings their record to 6-8 in Sun Belt play. Marlin thinks it's the type of win that can help them when the tournament starts.
The buzzer-beater will provide Stove with a huge boost of confidence, and if he heats up to finish the season, the pieces could start coming into place to make a run.
"In the tournament, whoever makes shots is going to win, and there's a lot of teams in our league that can beat each other, but it's who gets the hot hand and catches a break," Marlin said.
Louisiana caught a break up in Monroe, and the Warhawks had their hearts broken.