Big second half lifts Warhawks past Millsaps

ULM Warhawks

By Paul Letlow, ULMWarhawks.com Online Columnist

MONROE, La. – Second-half surges haven’t been a trademark for ULM basketball this season.

The Warhawks showed improvement in that area down the stretch on Wednesday night by closing out Millsaps College, 86-63, at Fant-Ewing Coliseum.

“I’m very happy with our second half,” ULM coach Keith Richard said. “I think we have three or four different teams within this team. And the group that we started in the second half, we got lighter, we got more activity and we got some athletes out there. I think it showed on the defensive end of the floor.”

ULM (4-2) outscored the visiting Division III team, 47-30, after intermission to break open what began as a back-and-forth affair. Michael Ertel led ULM in scoring with 21 points and was 8-for-10 shooting. Ertel has scored in double figures in 13-straight games and topped 20 points for the fifth time during that stretch.

“We were up probably 15 and coach was telling us, the last two games we’ve been in this situation and we let them back in it,” Ertel said. “We wanted to step on their throat and put them away.”

Last time out against Northwestern State, ULM led by as many as 18 points but allowed the Demons to cut the deficit to single digits in a 77-69 Warhawks’ win. Overall, ULM had been outscored, 171-141, in the second half through the first five games.

JD Williams fueled ULM’s strong second-half showing by scoring 15 of his 17 points. Williams scored just two points in the first half and was held without a field goal.

“We were locked in on what coach drew up for us at halftime,” Williams said. “We stayed locked in with that and kept pushing.”

Richard opened the second half with Ertel, Williams, Youry WhiteJalen Hodge and Tyree White on the court.  

“We got more aggressive on the offensive end, driving the ball like we should have been doing in the first half,” Richard said. “Credit our players. But it was pretty neat to be able to change in the middle of the game like that and go a different route.”

Tyree White added 10 points and Youry White grabbed eight rebounds. ULM shot 50 percent in the second half (15-of-30) and 46.7 percent in the game (28-of-60).

ULM finished the first half on a 10-0 run, held Millsaps scoreless over the final 6:31 and led 39-33 at the break. Ertel paced the Warhawks with 12 first-half points.

There were eight lead changes in the first 20 minutes. Millsaps led by four at 31-27 with 6:31 remaining in the half before hitting a dry spell against the Warhawks.

“Last year, it was close at the half with Millsaps and we ended up winning big in the second half,” Richard said. “Kind of the same thing this year.”

Up next: ULM plays host to Grambling State on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. to finish a three-game homestand.

Tail feathers: ULM recognized Ertel pregame by presenting him with a ball commemorating scoring his 1,000th career point. Ertel is the 38th player to score 1,000 points for the program. … Richard substituted liberally with 13 players seeing action. …  West Monroe High School product Langston Powell made his season debut in the second half and received a big cheer from the stands as he checked into the game.  … Former ULM star Daishon Smith, who played professionally in Hungary before suffering a stress fracture in his foot injury, was in attendance. 

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