Spotlight on Former Athletes: 1991-92 Men's Basketball Team Reunion & Recognition + photo gallery
Cajun basketball made waves in 1992
By Bruce Brown
It feels like just yesterday for some of us. For some, it seems like a lifetime ago. For some, it is.
The last time Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns won a game in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the school was still called USL.
George Bush, Senior, was president, to be replaced by Bill Clinton.
The Chicago Bulls beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 4 games to 2, for the second of three straight NBA titles (the first time) behind Michael Jordan.
No one had heard of the horrors of 9-11, and most could not conceive of it.
The Toronto Blue Jays would defeat the Atlanta Braves that year to win the World Series.
The 1992 Dallas Cowboys beat Buffalo 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII, starting a run of three crowns in four years, and they haven't done much since until the 2016 season.
Some things seem the same. Alabama rolled over Miami 34-13 in the Sugar Bowl to claim the 1992 college football crown, pilfering Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta at will. Bama is still in the habit of collecting trophies.
Hurricane Katrina was still 13 years in the distance.
And the Duke Blue Devils trampled Michigan by 20 to repeat as NCAA Basketball champions.
The world was a different place.
The 1991-92 Cajuns of coach Marty Fletcher made a splash in their first year as members of the Sun Belt Conference, and we're not just talking about the beach across the road from the arena in Biloxi that hosted the Sun Belt Tournament.
They fought past nemesis UNO 73-69 in overtime in the first round, then held off UALR 64-61 to set up a title showdown with old rival Louisiana Tech for an NCAA berth. That was a close one, too, as then-USL held on for a 75-71 victory.
(The 2016-17 Cajuns, by the way, have already beaten UNO, Tech and UALR this season. Maybe it's a sign.)
Assigned to West Regional play in Tempe, AZ, the 1991-92 Cajuns followed 21 points from Byron Starks to an 87-83 win over No. 23 Oklahoma – the school's first NCAA victory in 9 years.
Next up was New Mexico State. At stake was a Sweet 16 spot in Albuquerque, NM. What happened next was a travesty. It wasn't so much that the Cajuns lost 81-73 – hey, you take your chances every time out on the floor – but the way it went down.
NMSU hit 27-of-35 free throws, to 2-of-5 for the Cajuns. Two-of-five. TWO-OF-FIVE? Someone wake us from this dream, er, nightmare.
Cynics suggested getting NMSU advanced to the next round in its home state was at play, to boost attendance. Surely that was not the case.
At any rate, the Cajuns were done, heading home with a 21-11 record and unrealized potential in their baggage.
This was a team that had five members eventually score over 1,000 points in their USL careers – Michael Allen, 1.673; Starks, 1,592; Todd Hill, 1,394; the late Tony Moore, 1,118; and Marcus Stokes, 1,055.
Hill led the team in scoring with 14.1 points per game, while sophomores Allen and Starks matched 11.8 averages in the balanced attack.
Stokes averaged 11.6 rebounds and hit 56 percent of his shots. Cecilia product Carroll Boudreaux erased 1.1 enemy shots per game.
St. Thomas More product Eric Mouton ran the show with 5.3 assists and 1.9 steals per contest, as well as his legendary grit.
Defensive ace Shawn Griggs joined Cedric Mackeyon, Tyrone Jones and Bobby Thigpen leading a group of strong support performers in reserve.
Fletcher's team had gone 21-10 the year before, without a postseason berth to celebrate, so it was crucial for the Cajuns to take full advantage of the Sun Belt Tournament opportunity.
To do so, team members had to put aside personal agendas for the good of the overall product, which sounds easier than it sometimes is in basketball – only one ball and five potential shooters is an uneasy equation for some.
Allen would go on to average 18.3 points per game in his USL career and led the Cajuns to another Sun Belt crown and NCAA berth in 1994. Starks improved to 13.1 ppg before he was done.
Both had great scoring power. But so did Hill and Moore, and others could score, too. It was left up to Mouton, who didn't care about scoring, to distribute the ball and keep the engine humming.
Obviously, he did that.
Not surprisingly, Mouton is now coach and athletic director at Ascension Episcopal School. Starks coaches at Lafayette Christian Academy, AES's rival.
Allen is also a high school coach, in his native Kentucky, while Stokes has had success coaching in Tennessee and Berwick product Thigpen is also mentoring young players.
That's five players from the 1991-92 NCAA squad teaching next generations about the game they love. It was a special team of Cajuns, whose achievement grows larger each year since no one else has earned that honor in 25 years.
Team members who could attend were reunited and spotlighted when the Cajuns hosted and defeated ULM on Jan. 7.
Much has happened in their lives, and in the lives of those who follow them, during that quarter century.
The plan, of course, is for the Cajuns to return to NCAA play in the near and distant future.
They lost NCAA matchups to Marquette in 1994, Tennessee in 2000, North Carolina State in 2004 and Louisville in 2005, and have appearances in NIT (2001-02, 2002-03) and Collegeinsiders.com (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016) action, so they keep knocking on the postseason door.
The next step is to win again in the NCAA Tournament.
For now, the 1991-92 Cajuns serve as a great role model for how it's done right.
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To view photos and an article by Jay Walker about the Reunion and Recognition of the 1991-92 Men's Basketball Team, click on www.athleticnetwork.net > Ragin' Cajuns Reunions and Special Events (banner on right side of the News Box > Headlines of the Reunion.