The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball team turned from historic to inconsistent in the span of a year.
The loss of seniors combined with injuries to key players throughout the 2018-19 season closed the championship window for Louisiana.
After recording a school record 27-win last season, Louisiana returned with contributing players looking to avenge a short-lived tournament run. They lost to UT Arlington 68-71 in their second game of the Sun Belt Conference tournament. The Ragin’ Cajuns brought back SBC Defensive Player of the Year JaKeenan Gant, leading assist-man Marcus Stroman and 3-point marksman Malik Marquetti.
Louisiana lost the 2017-18 senior leaders Frank Bartley, Bryce Washington and Johnathan Stove. This meant the Ragin’ Cajuns were now without their leading scorer in Bartley (17.8 points per game) and double-double machine in Washington, who averaged 10.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Stove was the team’s leading scorer off the bench , averaging 10.1 points in 19.2 minutes per game.
In a video released by Louisiana’s Director of Digital Content Doug Domingue, Washington reflected on the historic season. He described what his goals were for the 2017-18 season and it was was to simple “max out.”
“I maxed out with everything,” Washington said. “The only thing I didn’t accomplish was going to the (NCAA) tournament. But that preparation to try to get there, I felt like we did everything right.”
Life without those senior leaders proved to be more challenging than anticipated.
Louisiana finished the 2018-19 season 10-8 in conference and 7-7 on the road. Their overall record of 19-13 is eight wins less than the year before. The team allowed 80.5 points per game as opposing team shot 46.3 percent from the field.
Louisiana’s challenges of defense and injuries collided with the season-ending injury to Marquetti in the 73-72 win over Southeastern Louisiana on Dec. 29, the game before conference play.
Marquetti was averaging 15.1 points per game on 45.2 percent from 3-point range. Along with his scoring, Marquetti’s perimeter defense was also missed with the team allowing the most points in the conference. Louisiana gave up 303 points in a three-game stretch against Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina and Georgia Southern from Jan. 31- Feb. 6.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that our record would be different if Malik Marquetti would have remained healthy,” Head Coach Bob Marlin said.
The injuries did not stop with Marquetti for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Stroman suffered a hamstring injury in the final regular season finale at Arkansas State. Louisiana’s floor general was limited to three minutes in the second half of their 90-87 overtime win.
Marquetti and Stroman’s injury led into the SBC tournament. Louisiana lost 69-70 to South Alabama in the second round.
“Everything fell into place last year for us,” Marlin said before the 2018-19 season started.
Gant rose above the turmoil by averaging 20.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. He even repeated as SBC Defensive Player of the Year.
But Gant’s standout play did not change the season-long narrative of inconsistency.
The Ragin’ Cajuns fall from historic to inconsistent arrived fast. The seasons did share similarities, though. It did not matter what direction the seasons went because they were both cut short by early losses in the conference tournament.