Louisiana-Lafayette had two goals Wednesday night in its first home basketball outing in almost three weeks — attack the basket and limit Jackson State’s Javeres Brent.
Mission accomplished on both fronts.
The Cajuns got 50 points from their frontcourt, and held the Tigers’ leading scorer to only three points on a 1-for-10 shooting night in taking a 76-53 win, one that provided revenge for an upset loss at JSU last year.
“We wanted to attack, and they gave us the attacking lanes,” said junior forward Devonta Walker, who had a game-high 19 points. “If you attack, most likely when you do that you’re going to get fouled.”
Walker hit 9-of-10 free throws, part of UL-Lafayette’s 24-of-32 effort from the foul line that resulted from forcing the ball inside. The Cajuns front line combined to go 19-of-30 from the field, much of that in the first half when the hosts shot 52.2 percent from the floor as a team.
“This game was tailor-made for him,” Cajuns coach Bob Marlin said of Walker. “It was an open-court game and he was able to get up and down the floor. Tonight he was looking for contact and got to the free-throw line.”
Conversely, the Tigers didn’t get over the 30 percent mark from the floor until the final 10 minutes, and ended up shooting 33.8 percent. Brent, the Tigers’ only twin-digit scorer entering the game and one of the SWAC’s top 3-point shooters last year, hit only one basket and was 1-for-7 outside the arc.
Senior transfer and Baton Rouge native Brian Williams was more proud of holding JSU’s top scorer in check than his 15 points — the fifth time in six games that he’s scored in double figures.
“Brent is a confident shooter, and guys like that are dangerous,” said Williams, who was manned up on Brent much of the game. “I tried to limit him as much as I could. I take a lot of pride in that ... I don’t like getting scored on.”
Walker and Williams were the Cajuns’ only double-digit scorers, but Marlin said that the play of starting guards Jay Wright and Kasey Shepherd were key in UL-Lafayette taking a double-digit lead in the game’s first 12 minutes.
Both had six rebounds and four assists, while combining for five steals and only one turnover.
“Jay did a really good job defensively in the first half,” Marlin said. “He was aggressive guarding the ball and got his hands on a lot of balls. Kasey sparked us a little in both halves.
“But the thing I liked most about our backcourt was they rebounded and didn’t turn the ball over.”
The Cajuns had an early 6-0 run to take a 23-12 lead with 8:17 left in the half on Bryce Washington’s two free throws, but the Tigers stayed close and were within 35-27 at halftime despite their poor shooting (11-of-37 in the first half).
UL-Lafayette scored the first five points of the second half, and two baskets off steals by Washington and Shepherd and a Johnathan Stove layup off another turnover in a 32-second stretch made it a 62-42 lead eight minutes into the second half.
Forward Derrell Taylor was the only twin-digit scorer for the Tigers (1-6) with 17 points. JSU had taken a 73-70 win in Jackson last season on a last-second three-pointer.
Junior forward Shawn Long, the nation’s leader in career double-doubles entering the season, saw his first action in three games after missing time with tendinitis and a bone bruise.
He played 28 minutes and finished with nine points and nine rebounds while blocking four shots in the first half.
“Shawn ran the floor at times, and he was active protecting the rim,” said Marlin, whose team plays at McNeese State on Saturday.
“We knew he wouldn’t be 100 percent and he got frustrated at times, but it was a good start back for him.”