LAFAYETTE — Missing in action for the first seven games of the season, the Louisiana-Lafayette perimeter shooters found their touch in a road loss to UCLA on Tuesday, knocking down a season’s-best 13 3-pointers.
The Cajuns came into the game shooting just 27.9 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, but coach Bob Marlin never wavered in his belief that his team, which led the Sun Belt in 3-point shooting percentage last season, would heat up.
Could Tuesday’s performance mark a turnaround from deep for the Cajuns?
“We’d like to think so,” Marlin said. “We had five guys make them (Tuesday night), and they all made multiple (shots) other than Johnathan (Stove). … It’ll be a strength for us going into conference play.”
The Cajuns backcourt had been struggling on the offensive end throughout the early portion of the season, particularly when it came to outside shooting.
But the Cajuns saw a couple rebound efforts Tuesday night.
Point guard Jay Wright scored a season-high 14 points and drained a couple important 3-pointers during a second-half rally. Steve Wronkoski played a season-high 23 minutes and rewarded the coaching staff by sinking two of his three attempts from deep.
But perhaps the most encouraging sign was Hayward Register bouncing back from a horrendous shooting slump.
The junior guard entered the season as the Cajuns top marksman, but he was shooting just 8-of-39 (20.5 percent) from 3-point range entering Tuesday’s game.
Against UCLA, Register took six shots in seven minutes of action, all from beyond the 3-point line, and he made three.
“It was nice to see Hayward hit some 3-point shots, he hit three big ones for us (against UCLA),” Marlin said. “We’re working on him having better body balance … he broke out of a little slump last night.”
Big night for Long
With what figured to be a high number of NBA scouts watching him play against a high-profile college team, senior forward Shawn Long delivered.
Long scored 26 points and snared 16 rebounds against UCLA, and perhaps more importantly, did the majority of his damage in the second half while the Cajuns whittled away UCLA’s lead.
“That was good. I know he wanted to get a win against a team like UCLA, which he knows will help more than anything, but he put up some good numbers,” Marlin said.
Long scored 20 points in 19 second-half minutes. Marlin said Long took an elbow to his neck in the first half, forcing him to the bench.
“He took a pretty hard spill and had to exit the game in the first half,” Marlin said. “To come back and do a good job on the glass, he ran the floor well and scored in a lot of different ways.”
With a game on tap against Pepperdine in Malibu on Friday, the Cajuns stayed in Los Angeles on Wednesday to get some work in and enjoy the fruits of their location.
“We’re practicing in the old student activity center, which is where (legendary UCLA coach John) Wooden played their games when he first came here, it’s pretty neat,” Marlin said. “It’s like a big barn on the inside, kind of like Hoosiers. Six baskets, three full courts.”
After Wednesday’s practice, Marlin said his team planned on going to the Staples Center, where director of basketball operations Mike Murphy managed to get the team in before the doors opened to the general public so it could watch the NBA players go through their pre-game warmups.
The team will depart Los Angeles on Thursday morning and take a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway before settling in to Malibu to get ready for Pepperdine.
Marlin said his club has a 5:30 a.m. flight Saturday morning in order to get back to Lafayette at a reasonable hour and get some rest before the UNO comes to town Monday.