By Paul Letlow, ULMWarhawks.com Online Columnist
MONROE, La. – ULM made short work of Louisiana College Tuesday night to open the 2019-20 season.
JD Williams matched his career high with 25 points and the Warhawks utilized their new-found size advantage to overpower the Wildcats 64-41 before a crowd of 2,498 at Fant-Ewing Coliseum.
“There were moments in the first half in particular that we looked really good, like a real Division I team,” ULM coach Keith Richard said. “But there were also many minutes in there where we didn’t look very good at all.”
Said Williams: “Obviously, it’s different than last year. It’s going to be tougher scoring, but we’ve got to just keep finding ways and go from there.”
Williams stuffed his stat line with five rebounds, two steals, two dunks and two 3-pointers while shooting 9-of-13 from the field.
“He played really well on both ends of the court,” Richard said. “He looked like a really good player out there. He moved easy on both ends. I know he scored a lot of points, but he had a lot of good defensive plays out there too.”
As advertised, ULM brought a taller, more menacing defensive presence and big rebounding edge to the floor. The Warhawks outscored their opponent, 28-6, in the paint, outrebounded the Wildcats, 57-24, blocked six shots and held Louisiana College to 26.4 percent shooting.
“For a minute there, we defended and rebounded and altered shots, all the things that we wanted to accomplish with the new guys we brought in,” Richard said. “We did do it and it looked well at times.”
There were familiar sights, such as Williams attacking the basket and flying high for dunks and Ertel’s quick left-handed shot from outside.
But ULM’s overall shooting prowess from a year ago won’t carry over. Points will sometimes have to come in a different manner and may not be as free flowing.
“The thing we’re struggling with is the scoring with the bigger lineup,” Richard said. “It’s kind of been that way for a while.”
Neither team shot well to open the game, but the Warhawks scorched the nets compared to their counterparts from Pineville.
ULM started the game 6-of-17 from the floor and missed its first five 3-pointers but still led 15-0 through the first nine minutes.
Louisiana College didn’t score its first points until a basket by Denzel Austin at the 10:54 mark of the first half. The Wildcats misfired on their first 10 shots.
ULM missed its first 10 3-pointers before Ertel stroked one with 3:35 to go in the opening half. ULM’s next basket was also a 3-pointer, this time by Williams to give the Warhawks a 33-8 lead.
Even while shooting 38.5 percent (15 of 39) in the first half and making just 2-of-14 3-pointers, ULM held a commanding 38-13 halftime lead. Williams scored 12 and Ertel 11 to pace the offense.
In the first half, Louisiana College shot a chilly 15.4 percent (4 of 26) while being outrebounded, 38-12, by the much larger Warhawks.
ULM scuffled through the second half as Louisiana College outscored the Warhawks, 28-26, over the final 20 minutes. ULM finished with 16 turnovers.
“Obviously, we can’t turn the ball over like we did, in the second half in particular, and beat good people,” Richard said. “We’ve got some work to do there, and we’ve got some work to do on offense with the bigger lineups in and mesh that in with the good defending and rebounding that was going on at times.”
Up next: ULM plays host to Alcorn State on Saturday, Nov. 9. Tip-off is 11 a.m. The Warhawks play five of their first seven games at home.
Tail feathers: ULM remembered Emily Williamson, the longtime director of the University of Louisiana Monroe Child Development Center, with a moment of silence before the game. Williamson, who passed away on Oct. 27, was the wife of former basketball trainer Robert Williamson. … The opening night starting lineup included Michael Ertel, JD Williams, Tyree White, Youry White and Chris Efretuei. … ULM leads the all-time series with Louisiana College 28-12 and has won 10 straight against the Wildcats. … Dadou Traore blocked three shots for ULM. … 11 different Warhawks saw action.