The Road to the NCAA Tournament – 1992
(This Saturday night, the 1991-92 Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns men's basketball team will be honored at halftime. This year is the 25th anniversary of their win in the NCAA Tournament.)
The 1991-92 men's basketball season was a memorable one for the Louisiana (then-USL) Ragin' Cajuns.
But it certainly didn't start out that way.
The Cajuns played a tough non-conference schedule that year. And, it took it's toll early. The Cajuns dropped a one point decision to Northern Iowa to start it off, then beat Ole Miss in the first round of the Louisiana Classics tournament, before falling to Mississippi State on the second night. The Cajuns then hit the road and lost games at Southern Miss, then at Northern Iowa and Memphis after the exams break.
One and five.
There were newcomers on that squad: The Cajuns had signed a junior college guard by the name of Michael Allen and another JUCO, Carroll Boudreaux. Oklahoma State transfer Cedric Mackyeon joined the club as well. They joined a couple of sophomores who had alternated as starters the season before: Byron Starks and Tony Moore. They all joined a pair of seniors, Eric Mouton and Marcus Stokes and junior Todd Hill, a starter since reaching campus to form the eight man rotation coach Marty Fletcher would use during the season.
Five of the players on that team scored over 1,000 points in their careers. Three are still in the top 25. One, Stokes, added 1,000 rebounds to go along with the point milestone..
One and five. The team had not yet gelled. The schedule was rugged.
The Cajuns came home and got a one point win over Nicholls State just before Christmas. It snapped the losing streak, but didn't make anyone pay attention.
Then Christmas came.
Marty Fletcher received a tie as one of his Christmas gifts. It was from the Beatles' collection. It was the "Good Day Sunshine" tie. Wife Cynthia said it was one of Marty's favorite songs. Most people thought it was pretty hideous.
Now, it should be noted all coaches are superstitious to an extent. Marty was one of those on the upper level. He wore the tie for a road game at McNeese State. The Cajuns won by 15. Marty wore the tie again for a double overtime win over FIU, coached by Bob Weltlich, who would later win a Sun Belt title with South Alabama.
Then it was time for conference play and the Cajuns opened at Jacksonville with a 30 point blowout. Then came home victories against Arkansas State, Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech. A road win at Central Florida made it eight in a row, seven when wearing the tie.
The streak finally came to an end January 21 at Lamar at the Monteigne Center, a place where the Cajuns had never won. The tie was temporarily retired. The Cajuns had not lost in a month.
After a win over Texas-Pan American at home, the Cajuns went to Mobile to take on South Alabama. It was Super Bowl Sunday. While everyone anticipated the game between the Redskins and Bills, the Cajuns fell behind by twenty points with just over twelve minutes to go. But one of the best comebacks in Cajuns' history then unfolded with a 102-97 overtime win. The Cajuns were 7-1 in league play.
But nothing came easy for the Cajuns. They were blown out at Arkansas State and then lost at home to New Orleans. A one point loss to Memphis followed when Tony Moore missed a shot at the buzzer. The Cajuns were 11-9.
And then, as Emeril would say, they kicked it up a notch.
Three straight wins followed. There was a tough loss at Louisiana Tech (another place where the Cajuns couldn't buy a win), but two days later, USL knocked off New Orleans at the Lakefront Arena to set up the final week of the season.
The Cajuns won a non-conference game against McNeese on the same night New Orleans upset Louisiana Tech to forge a tie for first place in the league. However, New Orleans great Ervin Johnson was found to have played in a pickup game earlier in the week which made him ineligible. The game was ordered forfeited to Louisiana Tech the next morning, giving them a one game lead in the standings.
The Cajuns lobbied the league and it was ruled if the Cajuns defeated Lamar, they would share the conference title, even though Tech would (tech-nically) have a better conference record. The Cajuns took care of their business and beat the Cardinals to win a co-championship in their first year in the Sun Belt.
But there was work to be done.
And, the tie made a comeback.
The Sun Belt Conference basketball tournament was held at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi. The top six teams in the league got a bye in the eleven-team tournament. The Cajuns, as the #2 seed, would meet the winner of #7 New Orleans and #11 Central Florida. The Cajuns took the court against their old nemesis on Friday afternoon, March 6. UNO staged a furious comeback to send the game to overtime. The Cajuns led by two points in the extra period when Eric Mouton was fouled with four seconds remaining. Time out was called. The Cajuns came back on the court first and Mouton was at the free throw line. As UNO came back onto the court, Mouton glared at UNO head coach Tim Floyd. What happened then is part of Cajun basketball lore but suffice to say Mouton had something to say to Floyd. He then calmly hit both free throws to propel the Cajuns to a 73-69 win and a trip to the semifinals.
After a tougher than expected 64-61 win over Little Rock on Saturday the Cajuns prepared to meet top-seed Louisiana Tech in a Sunday night nationally televised game. The Bulldogs, let by league MVP Ron Ellis along with Anthony Dade and P. J. Brown had split a pair of games with the Cajuns with each winning on their home court. Louisiana Tech roared out to a twelve point halftime lead and looked to be on their way to their second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. But at halftime, Todd Hill told Fletcher he felt he was quicker than the man defending him and said he could get open. They ran a play for Hill and he hit the shot. The Cajuns went to him over and over again and he scored eighteen second half points en route to the Most Outstanding Player Award. The Cajuns battled back to tie the game in the final minute and Michael Allen hit a shot with 14 seconds left to give the Cajuns a two point lead. Louisiana Tech missed on its next possession and Marcus Stokes was fouled on the rebound. He hit both free throws and the Cajuns had an improbable 75-71 win and a trip to the NCAA Postseason.
Marty Fletcher and his team were headed to Tempe. And, the tie was going with them.