Jay’s Cajuns Moment #20 – Senior Night with Tim Floyd
USL 73, New Orleans 69
CAJUNDOME February 23, 1994
The Cajundome opened in November of 1985. In that season, the final for Bobby Paschal, the Cajuns defeated the University of New Orleans.
The next season, Marty Fletcher took over as the Cajuns' head coach. And, playing as an independent with a decimated roster, Fletcher lost to UNO teams.
In the second year of the American South Conference, UNO hired the head coach from Idaho, Tim Floyd, a Louisiana Tech graduate to continue what had been a pretty good program. And, Floyd had immediate success. But, most of his consistent success was against the Cajuns in their home arena.
Year after year.
The crowds at the Dome were the best when UNO came to town. And, Cajuns fans learned to love to hate Floyd, whose intensity and sideline antics riled the Cajuns' fans to no end.
But what riled them most of all was Floyd always won at the Cajundome.
Even in the magical 1991-92 season, when the Privateers finished seventh in the league and the Cajuns won a share of the Sun Belt title, Floyd's team won in the Cajundome. Now, the Cajuns did beat the Privateers twice that season, at the Lakefront Arena and at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, site of the Sun Belt Conference basketball tournament.
But not at the Dome.
The following season, UNO went 18-0 in the regular season and won in Lafayette again.
And, on January 29, 1994, it was Floyd and UNO besting Fletcher and the Cajuns again, this time at the Lakefront. That made Fletcher's record against UNO 4-22.
Then on February 23, 1994, the Cajuns honored four of the most decorated seniors in Cajuns' history. Three of them (Michael Allen, Byron Starks and the late Tony Moore) were in the 1,000 point club. The fourth (Shawn Griggs) was the all-time steals leader in Cajuns history. Over 8.000 fans turned out for those seniors, and to see if the Privateers would spoil Senior Night. As the ceremonies started, Floyd took his team out of the arena and re-entered when it was time for the game to start.
And the Privateers came out on fire.
UNO took a fourteen point lead in the first half. But the Cajuns, led as usual by Allen and Starks, cut the lead to two at halftime, 38-36. The game remained nip and tuck in the second half with UNO leading 60-57. But a free throw by Brian Collins and a jumper by Starks tied the game at 60 and started an eight point Cajuns' run, culminating with an Allen 3-pointer. Allen wound up scoring nine of his 25 points in the final three minutes, including a running jumper with :22 left to give the Cajuns a five point lead. Barry Bowman collected the rebound on the next UNO possession and got the ball to Allen, who was fouled with six seconds left.
Finally it had happened. Allen and Starks, who combined for 49 of the Cajuns 73 points, looked up at the scoreboard and embraced at mid-court. Allen hit the two freebies before a meaningless three pointer at the buzzer made the final four point margin.
Griggs added ten points for the Cajuns as did Collins, who also tallied 16 rebounds as the Cajuns won the rebounding battle for the first time in fifteen games. USL only turned the ball over six times, just once in the second half. Tony Moore only scored two points, but shared in the senior limelight on a magical night at the Cajundome.
No one knew it at the time, but it would be Floyd's last appearance at the 'Dome. UNO would lose again to the Cajuns in the semifinals of the conference tournament, the only time the Cajuns won consecutive games in the series against Floyd. After the season, Floyd left UNO for Iowa State.
A couple of years ago I happened to run into Floyd at the El Paso Airport. I knew he wouldn't remember me, so I re-introduced myself. He smiled and said he remembered the great crowds and great games between USL and UNO and said how much he loved playing in Lafayette.
"That's because you always won," I said.
Floyd laughed. "Yeah, but not the last time."
( NCAA Box Score and USL game notes contributed to this story.)