LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia State always seem to create fireworks when they meet on the court, and that was no different in Thursday night’s 84-80 thriller at the Cajundome.
On top of that, they are both sitting at or near the top of the Sun Belt Conference standings. Maybe that’s why both teams are envisioning not one, but two more matchups against each other this season.
“I think you’ll see these two teams playing again on March 15,” Georgia State guard R.J. Hunter said, referring to the SBC tournament championship game the Cajuns won in overtime last season.
Cajuns coach Bob Marlin had a similar gut reaction in his postgame news conference.
“We may play these guys in March again, who knows?” Marlin said. “They’re a good team, we just have to see how the tournament unfolds.”
If that were the case, it’s hard not to imagine another classic battle between the two based on their recent history.
Since Georgia State became a member of the SBC, the teams have split four matchups against each other, and those four games have been decided by a grand total of 15 points.
The Cajuns knew going into the game against Georgia State that they’d exclusively see the Panthers in a 2-3 defensive zone, but that didn’t stop them from struggling against it early.
The Cajuns, who lead the SBC in scoring average at 82.6 points per game, managed only 14 points in the first 14 minutes of the game Thursday.
“We want to run,” senior guard Brian Williams said. “That zone definitely … slowed us down. I don’t think we’ve seen a zone like that that’s slowed us down yet, so we had to find a way to play how we want to play.”
Keke Veal didn’t have a big statistical game against Georgia State on Thursday night, but her impact went beyond the box score for coach Gary Brodhead.
“Keke Veal only had nine points, but I thought she was a big part of moving the ball around,” Brodhead said. “… Keke was big for us tonight, even if she didn’t score 20.”
Veal struggled shooting, particularly from the 3-point line where she had several open looks that rimmed out.
But her aggressiveness on the offensive end penetrating the Panthers’ zone defense led to both open looks for her teammates and a group of Georgia State players tired from chasing her all over the court.
Time to rest
Because of some quirky scheduling, the Cajuns’ game against Georgia State was their third in five days — a stretch that included a long trip to Boone, N.C., for a game against Appalachian State.
Now, they’ll get a week off before their next contest, a road game against Georgia State.
But they’ll need the rest. Coming out of the break, the Cajuns will play another five games in a nine-day span.
“We’re taking off,” Marlin said. “… Rest is the best medicine sometimes. But we will get some things cleaned up in practice. We’ll have three days to prepare for the next game, which we haven’t had that in a while. And that’s giving the guys a couple days off.”
Shawn Long’s 16 points Thursday put him in range to vault into the Top 25 in scoring in Cajuns history.
Long is now 14 points shy of passing Bill McHorris for 25th on the Cajuns’ all-time scoring list.
Since returning from an early-season injury, he’s averaged 17.1 points per contest. If he were to keep that clip up through the remainder of the regular season, Long would make his way into the Cajuns’ Top 10.
Odds and ends
The Louisiana-Lafayette men’s team is now 7-0 this season with a starting lineup of Jay Wright, Kasey Shepherd, Williams, Long and Devonta Walker. … The women scored 28 points off turnovers Thursday against Georgia State’s two points off turnovers. The 26-point margin was their highest all season … Jaylyn Gordon made six 3-pointers Thursday, a career high.