ULM earns first road win, series sweep against Troy, 74-71

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TROY, Ala. – Michael Ertel scored a game-high 23 points as ULM recorded its first road win of the season and snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 74-71 victory over Troy Thursday night in Trojan Arena. The Warhawks, who opened the New Year with a 79-63 home-court win over the Trojans on Jan. 2, also completed the regular-season series sweep over Troy.

ULM (7-17, 3-12 Sun Belt) held the Trojans to a season-low 19 first-half points while building a 15-point halftime advantage (34-19). The Warhawks withstood Troy’s 52-point scoring outburst in the second half to earn their first road win in 11 tries.

“I’m happy for the players,” ULM head coach Keith Richard said. “We had a new goal this week: to win a road game. We hadn’t won one all year, so that was our only goal for this week. So obviously, it’s a happy locker room.

“It was tough holding on there at the end, but somehow we did it.”

There were two lead changes and three ties in the first 5:37 of the game. Tahj Small scored seven of his team’s first nine points as Troy (9-17, 5-10) jumped out to a 9-4 lead. ULM answered with an 8-0 run and took a 12-9 lead on Erie Olonade’s 3-pointer from the right wing with 14:23 remaining in the first half. Leading 14-3, the Warhawks put together a 13-1 spurt and took a 27-14 advantage on D’Andre Bernard’s 3 from the left wing with 8:54 on the clock. ULM held Troy without a field goal for 9:37 during one stretch, and the Trojans made just one of their last 16 field-goal attempts in the opening half. The Warhawks outscored the Trojans, 20-6, over the last 13 minutes to build a 34-19 halftime advantage.

ULM limited Troy to 19-percent field-goal shooting (5-of-26) in the first half, including just 2-of-14 (14 percent) from 3-point range.

Ertel scored 16 first-half points, hitting 7-of-13 shots from the field including 2-of-4 3-pointers.

“(Michael Ertel) Mike was really good in the first half,” Richard said. “He was the best player on the floor and got us a halftime lead.”

Trailing 54-40, Ty Gordon’s 3-point play sparked a 7-0 run and Troy cut its deficit to seven at 54-47 on Small’s 3-pointer from the left baseline with 6:03 left in the second half. ULM responded with an 8-3 spurt, with Chris Efretuei scoring six-straight points, as the Warhawks extended their lead to 62-50 with 4:23 remaining. The Trojans put together a 13-5 run and pulled to within 67-63 on a 3-point play from Desmond Williams with 1:33 left. ULM converted 5-of-6 free-throw attempts in the final 15 seconds to ice the game. Williams buried a deep 3 from the top of the circle as Troy cut its deficit to 73-71 with four seconds to go. Olonade converted the first of two free throws to give the Warhawks a 74-71 advantage, and Williams’ desperation 3 from 70 feet hit off the back iron as time expired.

ULM and Troy both executed at a high level offensively in the second half, with both teams shooting better than 50 percent from the field. The Warhawks connected on 11-of-20 second-half field-goal attempts (55 percent) while the Trojans made 15-of-27 shots (56 percent) from the floor.

Troy outrebounded ULM, 42-30, and enjoyed a 15-3 edge in second-chance points.

“We’ve had troubles coming out in the second half,” Richard said. “So, we started a different lineup and went zone to start the second half, and it really didn’t do anything for us. I look up 5 minutes later and we’ve lost four-to-six points off the (halftime) lead. We turned the ball over a few times too, and I thought here we go again. So, we went back to our starting lineup and went back to playing man-to-man.”

Three other ULM players joined Ertel in double figures, with Olonade scoring a season-high 14 points to go along with a season-best four assists. The Warhawks also got 13 points and eight rebounds from Efretuei and 10 points from Tyree White.

“It really was a great team effort because we had a number of guys make some nice plays throughout the second half,” Richard said. “Erie Olonade played his best overall game as the point guard, and he scored some big buckets for us down the stretch.

“Chris Efretuei made three plays in a row there that saved the game for us because we were really struggling to score. We put Chris back in the game and went to him three-straight times, and he either scored or got fouled. He made some huge plays.

“And D’Andre Bernard (scored seven points off the bench) gave us a lift throughout the game.”

Troy also featured a well-balanced scoring attack, with four players posting double figures, led by Nick Stampley, KJ Simon and Small, who netted 12 points each. Charles Norman added 11 points. Both Simon and Norman went scoreless in the first half.

ULM continues its three-game Sun Belt road swing at South Alabama on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 3 p.m. The Warhawks will attempt to complete their second series sweep of the season, as ULM defeated USA, 69-49, in the first meeting on Jan. 4 in Fant-Ewing Coliseum.

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