Five Cajuns reach double figures as ULL tops Louisiana Tech
Five Cajuns scored in double figures, including double-doubles by Shawn Long and Elfrid Payton along with a career-high 22 points from Kasey Shepherd, as the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns extended their win streak to four with an 89-80 victory against Louisiana Tech Wednesday.
The win snapped Louisiana Tech’s 19-game home winning streak at Thomas Assembly Center and dropped the Bulldogs to 6-2. The Cajuns, who never trailed in the contest, improved to 6-2 this season.
“This was a great win against a good team in a tough place to play,” Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Bob Marlin said in a university release. “We’re coming together as a team nicely right now, and we are getting production throughout the lineup.
“I came into the game thinking that we needed to win the battle of the ‘three’s, free’s and T’s,’ and even though we had more turnovers than they did, I thought we came through,” Marlin added. “We shot the ball well from both the three-point and the free throw line, especially during crunch time, which helped us put the game away.”
The performance was perhaps the best overall for the Cajuns, who led from start to finish. The win snapped an eight-game losing streak in Ruston and improved Louisiana-Lafayette’s record to 57-68 all-time against their neighbors to the north.
Despite missing extended time in the first half with a pair of fouls, Long scored 17 points and added 12 rebounds and three blocks, while Payton, who drew heavy coverage by the Bulldog defense, added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Shepherd and Xavian Rimmer each scored in double figures to lead a 40-point effort from the Cajuns bench.
“We’ve gotten great production from those two off the bench all season and tonight was no different,” Marlin said. “They give us two strong offensive options to go to if (opposing) defenses are going to focus on stopping Elfrid.”
Shepherd showed his quickness by continually beating his defender into the lane, going 8-for-10 from the field with a pair of 3-pointers. Rimmer, who had scored 41 points in his last two games, finished with 15 points, including a 7-for-8 performance from the free throw line.
Alex Hamilton led four Bulldogs in double figures with 17 points. Raheem Appleby added 13 points, Kenneth Smith 12 and Kenyon McNeil 11.
The Cajuns made their free throws down the stretch, going 11-for-13 from the stripe in the final 2:08 to help put the game away. Louisiana-Lafayette finished the night 22-for-30 from the line (.733), while Louisiana Tech managed just 12-for-22 shooting (.545).
It was a good shooting night all-around for the Cajuns, as they recorded a .492 percentage from the field (31-for-63), including a 15-for-27 effort in the second half (.556), and .417 from behind the 3-point line (5-for-12).
Despite being out-rebounded 47-44, with most of the margin coming late in the first half with Long on the bench, the Cajuns held a 22-12 lead in second-chance points.
The Bulldogs cut the lead to three points twice in the second half, the last coming on a pair of free throws by Appleby with 7:45 remaining that made it a 67-64 contest. But Louisiana Tech would go scoreless during the next five-plus minutes as five straight points by Payton, a pair of layups by Shepherd and a free throw by Long pushed Louisiana-Lafayette’s lead to 77-64 with 2:51 remaining.
Louisiana Tech made one final run late in the game, closing to 79-73 on a layup by McNeil with 1:04 remaining, but the Cajuns would answer as a pair of free throws by Rimmer and a dunk by Long pushed the lead to 83-73.
The Cajuns needed 21 seconds to take a lead in the game they would never relinquish as Hammond’s Steven Wronkoski buried a 3-pointer for his only basket of the game.
The Bulldogs tied it at 3 on a basket inside by Appleby with 18:46 left in the half before Long scored twice inside to push the Cajuns lead to 7-3.
Leading 7-5, the Cajuns ran off six of the next seven points to extend the lead to 13-6 at the 14:47 mark. Long started the run with a dunk followed by baskets inside by Elridge Moore and Kevin Brown.
The teams traded baskets for the next five minutes.
With Louisiana-Lafayette leading 23-19 with 9:50 left, the Cajuns ran off six straight on a pair of free throws by Rimmer and baskets inside by Payton and Shepherd to make it a 29-19 lead with 7:46 left.
The Cajuns played the final 8:32 of the first half without Long, who scored six points with six rebounds in the half, but his absence didn’t hurt. He left the game with the Cajuns ahead by six and Louisiana took a 44-39 lead into the half.
The Cajuns will end a stretch that has had them play six of seven games on the road when they travel to Louisville, Ky., to face defending national champion Louisville Saturday in a noon tipoff.
Then, Louisiana-Lafayette will return home to play three of its next four games heading into the new year. The Cajuns will open their home stand Dec. 14 against Houston in a 7:05 p.m. contest in the Cajundome.