LAFAYETTE — Make it six in a row for the Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball team.
And not just six straight wins, but six impressive ones.
The Ragin’ Cajuns outscored Texas-Arlington by 15 points in the second half and pushed their winning streak to six games with a 90-75 win against a solid Mavericks team that came ready to play.
Each victory during the winning streak has come by at least nine points, and the average margin of victory is now 19.3 points.
“It’s very satisfying,” sophomore forward Bryce Washington said. “But we’re still hungry.”
The Cajuns (11-8, 7-3) got another huge game from senior forward Shawn Long, who scored 22 points to tie Jerry Flake for fifth on the school’s all-time scoring list. Long also pulled down 15 rebounds and blocked six shots.
But, as has been the case lately for the Cajuns, it wasn’t a one-man show. Jay Wright had another efficient offensive game with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting, and Washington scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half.
“Bryce was really solid, especially in the second half,” Cajuns coach Bob Marlin said.
The Cajuns started to take control midway through the second half when Wright capped a 10-2 run by knocking down a 3-pointer with UT-Arlington’s Drew Charles draped all over him.
It was Wright’s third 3-pointer of the game, and it pushed the Cajuns’ lead to 14 points with 8:20 to go.
The Mavericks (14-6, 5-4) whittled that lead to seven with about five minutes to go, but a flurry of Cajuns free throws pushed it back to double digits, and Kasey Shepherd put the game out of reach with a 3-point dagger from the corner.
The Cajuns had a huge advantage from the free-throw line, where they made 29 of 34 attempts compared to 13 of 23 for the Mavericks. The Cajuns also made 50 percent of their 3-pointers as they shot 54 percent from the field.
“We need our free throws,” Marlin said. “We’re an aggressive team, and to get that many opportunities we need to cash them in.”
The victory pushed the Cajuns’ home winning streak to 12 games, including 9-0 this season. The last time the Cajuns lost at the Cajundome was to UT-Arlington last season 84-69.
“We talked about setting the tone from the get-go,” senior guard Steve Wronkoski said. “Those guys came in last year and popped us pretty good. I remember that vividly.”
That much was evident. The Cajuns opened the game on an 11-0 run on the strength of three consecutive possessions that ended with a 3-pointer.
Wright made the first one to beat the shot clock, and the last two came from Wronkoski, who buried a transition 3 from the right wing and then nailed another from the same spot on the other side of the court on his next trip.
Wronkoski scored nine big points in the first half, all coming on 3-pointers, and finished with a season-high 11.
But the Mavericks quickly fought back into the game thanks to some careless play on the offensive end by the Cajuns, who turned the ball over nine times in the first 9:30. The Mavericks answered the Cajuns’ 11-0 run with a 12-2 run to make it a one-point game.
“I’m the hardest judge of our team that’s out there anywhere. I want us to play the perfect game, but it doesn’t happen very often,” Marlin said. “No one’s going to go out and play well for 40 minutes every night; it’s college basketball. We just have to fight through the slippage that we have.”
The lead changed hands eight times in the final 10:20 of the first half, and neither team was able to build a lead of larger than five points once the Mavericks came back from their early deficit. A free throw by UT-Arlington point guard Erick Neal with four seconds remaining made it 42-42 at halftime.
“We regrouped at halftime,” Washington said. “The key word was being tough. Once we got going in the second half, everybody was feeling it.”