Shawn Long was a thorn in the Bulldogs’ paw once again.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette men’s basketball team’s junior postman, despite foul trouble that limited him for much of the game, had 14 points and 12 rebounds in the second half Wednesday night in guiding the Cajuns to a 94-86 win over state rival Louisiana Tech at the Cajundome.
Long finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds. Last year, he had a 17-point, 10-rebound effort against the Bulldogs in Ruston. He had eight points in the first six minutes of the second half when the Cajuns (4-4) turned a 41-39 halftime deficit into as much as a 14-point lead seven minutes into the final half.
“He was the difference in the game,” Tech coach Michael White said. “Shawn Long dominated. If Shawn Long had the flu today and didn’t play, the story could have been a lot different.”
Long, in his third game back after missing two games with an ankle injury, picked up two fouls in the game’s first five minutes. Not by coincidence, he left when the Bulldogs (7-2) were starting an early 12-0 run that provided an 18-9 lead at the 12:51 mark of the first half.
“We told our guys they had to lock in and defend,” Cajuns coach Bob Marlin said. “They (Tech) were beating us to the 50-50 balls, and we had a stretch in the first half when we had five turnovers in a row.”
It took less than five minutes for UL-Lafayette to wipe out that deficit thanks to 3-point shooting. The Cajuns, who were 3-for-20 outside the arc Saturday in an 80-70 loss at McNeese State, hit their first five 3-pointers Wednesday on the way to a 7-of-14 mark.
The fourth of that stretch came from Kasey Shepherd and gave the Cajuns a 26-24 lead.
“We have good shooters,” said Shepherd, who finished with 16 points and game-highs of five assists and four steals. “We know that opens the floor up for everybody else.”
Mostly it opened the middle up for Long, who scored off offensive rebounds four times in the second half. He had almost as many offensive rebounds (six) as the entire Bulldogs squad (seven). He scored three times in the final six minutes of the first half when Marlin constantly substituted to get him in for offensive possessions.
“He’s getting back to himself,” Marlin said. “He had fun out there. He had 24 points in 24 minutes, and that’s pretty impressive. For a long stretch, he was the best player on the floor tonight.”
The Cajuns had a big 42-29 advantage on the boards, including a 22-12 advantage in the second half.
“We’re trying to hold it in the road in the interior and on the glass, just to try to negate some of that pounding we’re going to get,” White said. “We held it in the road first 20 minutes, but it got away from us in the second half.”
UL-Lafayette took an 89-80 win in last year’s meeting, which was also an up-and-down contest.
Alex Hamilton’s 3-pointer at the horn gave the Bulldogs the halftime lead, part of his 15 first-half points on the way to a game-high 27. Tech still led 43-41 in the first minute of the second half before the Cajuns went on an 8-0 run, one wrapped up when Shepherd stole an inbounds pass under the Tech basket and had an uncontested layup for a 49-43 edge.
Eventually, that run became 19-3, with Bryan Williams’ 3-pointer giving the Cajuns a 60-46 lead at the 13:01 mark. Tech got it to three on Hamilton’s four-point play with 9:12 left, but UL-Lafayette went on another 13-3 run that provided a double-digit margin.
Williams and point guard Jay Wright added 15 and 13 points for the Cajuns, with Wright returning after missing the McNeese game with a virus. Long, Williams and Shepherd combined to go 23-of-36 from the field as the Cajuns shot 52.2 percent as a team.
Erik McCree had 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, but the rest of the Tech team shot just over 39 percent from the field.
“Our defense was good until the last three or four minutes,” Marlin said. “I really liked the way we attacked their defense. After the McNeese game, we figured they may play us more zone because that’s what they do. But we shot it well and moved the ball well early.”