The disappointment could be heard in their voices — the disappointment of a dream season — a season of program resurrection if you will — coming to an end with a hard-fought loss.
Yes, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns fell to the Tennessee Volunteers in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night in Orlando.
No one of course likes losing but the loss can not and should diminish from a tremendous season. A year that brought pride back to the program and one that saw the Ragin’ Cajuns overcome setbacks to deliver on the promises of the preseason.
After falling to Tennessee 58-55 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday, the season came to an end with a 26-8 overall record and a Sun Belt Championship. This trip to the NCAA Tournament was just the seventh in school history and the second under Bob Marlin.
The season started with the Cajuns going 5-0 with two big wins in the Asheville Championship and a gusty overtime win on the road against SMU. At the time, that win against the Mustangs appeared more significant than it turned out to be, with Rob Lanier’s group going 10-22 and finishing 10th in the American.
After falling to a Drake team that went on to win the Missouri Valley Conference and play Miami in the NCAA Tournament, Louisiana again went on a five-game win streak to put themselves at 10-2 going to Austin to take on Texas in the Moody Center shortly after Chris Beard was suspended for his off-court issues. Jordan Brown scored 20 points in the contest, but Texas was the much better team in a 100-72 defeat of the Cajuns.
Bob Marlin’s squad then opened conference play on the road two days later, falling to Coastal Carolina on a last-second turnover and score before losing to Old Dominion as well to start the SBC schedule 0-2.
After starting 10-4, the season kicked into overdrive for the Cajuns.
Louisiana went on a 10-game win streak to improve their record to 20-4. Some of the notable wins in this stretch included beating Southern Miss 75-61, coming back from a 19-point halftime deficit to beat Georgia Southern 94-87, and a 10-point win over Marshall when the Fabulous Cajun Chicken returned to the Cajundome for the first time in 20 years.
However, losses to Southern Miss and Troy on the road down the stretch of the season kept the Cajuns out of winning the regular season title, forcing Louisiana to settle for the second seed heading into the conference tournament.
Louisiana went on to win the conference tournament for the first time in nine years after taking down Georgia Southern, Texas State, and South Alabama to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
That’s when they ran into Tennessee, a 23-10 defensive juggernaut from the SEC. After failing to make a three-pointer in the first half, Louisiana made six in the second half before falling short 58-55 to end their season at 26-8.
From the fast start to the ten-game win streak and winning the conference championship and going undefeated at home for the first time in the Cajundome era, Louisiana was able to accomplish historic things during the season.
Now, the focus shifts to the bright future of Louisiana basketball, where players like Kobe Julien, Themus Fulks, and Joe Charles will become the cornerstones of the team as they look to build on the success from this season.