The Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball squad is in prime position for a letdown Saturday when the Ragin’ Cajuns face a third straight Louisiana opponent.
The Cajuns rebounded from a disappointing loss at McNeese State one week ago with their best 40 minutes of the season Wednesday in a 94-86 win over a red-hot Louisiana Tech squad. Now, they’ll host Centenary in a rare 2 p.m. game Saturday, and coach Bob Marlin is hoping his team doesn’t have Tech fatigue and finals fatigue.
“That game took a lot out of us,” Marlin said of Wednesday’s win over a Bulldog squad that was 7-1 and had its only loss at Temple. “Plus we’re finishing up finals, we had four guys that had finals today (Friday).
“We went for about 90 minutes in practice (Thursday), and the guys looked mentally and physically drained.”
The visiting Gents may be drained themselves. Centenary defeated Rust College 104-88 on Friday and will tip off at the Cajundome 20 hours later. But Marlin said the Cajuns can’t afford to relax against a team that made 60 3-pointers in its first nine games (UL-Lafayette has made 33).
“They’re well-coached and they’ve got guards that can shoot and drive the ball,” Marlin said. “They’ve played man and zone, so we know we have to continue to make shots. I felt like we were ready to bust out and make shots, and that’s what kept us in the game Wednesday when we had early foul trouble.”
The Cajuns hit their first five 3s against Tech and ended the night 7-of-14 outside the arc and at 52.2 percent overall. More importantly, UL-Lafayette held a big 42-29 rebound advantage, the second time this season the Cajuns had outrebounded an opponent by a double-digit margin.
“We should have a size advantage up front,” Marlin said. “But Centenary’s won in this building before, so we’ve got to be prepared and go out and play.”
The Gents took a 73-68 win over the Cajuns in the 2009-10 season in the Cajundome, but UL-Lafayette has won the last two meetings by an average of 33 per game.
Centenary has no one on its roster over 6-foot-5, with 6-4 sophomore forward and Northside graduate Kendall Demouchet leading the Gents in scoring (13.2) and is second in rebounding (4.4) behind sophomore UL-Monroe transfer James Sapp (11.8, 6.2 rebounds).
Junior forward Shawn Long has had back-to-back double-doubles against McNeese and Tech, getting 24 points and 15 rebounds Wednesday against the Bulldogs despite playing only 24 minutes with foul trouble. He now has 38 double-doubles in his career, second-most nationally among active players.
UL-Lafayette had four double-figure scorers against the Bulldogs in its highest-scoring game since last year’s regular-season-finale 102-74 rolling of South Alabama. The Cajuns had four triple-digit home wins last season, one of them a 103-69 win over Centenary in mid-December.
Guards Kasey Shepherd (16 points) and Jay Wright (13) and forwards Brian Williams (15) and Devonta Walker (eight) combined with Long to give UL-Lafayette 76 points from its starting lineup Wednesday. The Cajuns have gone with that lineup in two of their last three games, with point guard Wright missing the McNeese game with a virus.
“We’d like to get that solidified by conference play,” Marlin said of the starting lineup. “The important thing is we have to continue to shoot the ball well.”
UL-Lafayette has shot 52 percent in the ‘Dome on the way to a 3-0 home record, and the Cajuns struggled from long-range with a combined 5-for-30 mark outside the arc in the two games prior to Wednesday’s breakout against the Bulldogs.