Just when he was becoming a consistent offensive and shooting threat for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s men’s basketball team, Kasey Shepherd may be a question mark for Thursday’s home contest against South Alabama.
The senior guard ruptured a tendon on one finger of his shooting hand late in Saturday’s runaway 87-54 road win over defending Sun Belt Conference champion Georgia State. A Monday doctor’s diagnosis confirmed the extent of the injury.
“He dove on the floor in front of our bench for a loose ball and hurt his finger,” Cajuns coach Bob Marlin said of the late-game incident in Atlanta. “It was bent, and he couldn’t straighten it out.”
Shepherd is the Cajuns’ second-leading scorer and ranks 20th in the Sun Belt entering this week at 11.4 points per game. He had 19 points coming off the bench, hitting 5-of-11 on 3-pointers against Georgia State, and is averaging 12.2 points in UL-Lafayette’s past five Sun Belt games.
Marlin said that Shepherd should see action in Thursday’s 7:15 p.m. game at the Cajundome.
“He’s going to be able to play,” he said. “We’ve got that. I just don’t know how effective he’ll be shooting the ball. He’s been shooting with confidence, and we need him to score. When he plays well, we play well.”
Home sweet Dome?
UL-Lafayette (7-8, 3-3) opens a string of seven home games in eight outings in Thursday’s game against the Jaguars. After playing four straight road games and playing away from home in five of their first six Sun Belt outings, the Cajuns will play only one road game between now and Feb. 18: a Feb. 4 contest against struggling Appalachian State.
“It felt good to put the bags up,” said Marlin, whose team has played 10 of its first 15 on opposing courts. “Last night, I zipped them up and put them off to the side. I’ve been just leaving them out in the closet.”
UL-Lafayette hosts South Alabama (7-10, 2-4) and Troy (7-10, 1-5) on Thursday and Saturday. The Cajuns host Texas State and UT Arlington next week.
Marlin said his team will have to re-adjust to playing in the Cajundome. Monday’s practice, which was mostly individual drills, was the Cajuns’ first appearance in the building since the 79-58 Jan. 2 win over Appalachian State.
“We haven’t been in the ’Dome for practice at all,” he said. “We’re looking forward to playing at home. We have played some tough venues on the road. I don’t think many people will win at Atlanta (over Georgia State). Monroe’s undefeated at home, not many people will win there. Little Rock is undefeated at home. We played at a lot of the tougher places.”
Beware the matchup
South Alabama lost four of its past six games since beginning Sun Belt play, but the Jaguars pulled off a surprise in their last outing in snapping UT-Arlington’s eight-game win streak and handing the Mavericks their first league loss with an 88-85 overtime victory in Mobile, Alabama. UTA had won 12 of its past 13 before that loss.
The Jaguars were also a thorn in the Cajuns’ side last season. Despite a losing conference record, South Alabama beat the Cajuns twice last season: 89-82 in Lafayette and 89-85 in Mobile. The home loss, after the Cajuns led by 15 points in the first half and 44-35 at halftime, was one of three home losses for UL-Lafayette.
“Last year, we didn’t match up well with them,” Marlin said. “Our coaches felt like those two games cost us a conference championship, since we finished two games out. We played really well early here last year, but we got in a shooting match in the second half, and they outshot us and beat us.”
UL-Lafayette outrebounded Georgia State by a 38-21 margin Saturday, including 16 offensive rebounds. Georgia State didn’t get its first offensive rebound until 9:41 remained in the game and the Cajuns led 61-44. ... After his two double-double outings against Georgia Southern and Georgia State last week, senior postman Shawn Long ranks third nationally in rebounding with 13.0 per game. He trails only Egidijus Mockevicius of Evansville (14.3) and Joel Bolomboy of Weber State (13.6) nationally and leads the Sun Belt by more than three rebounds per game. ... Long has 63 career double-doubles, by far the nation’s top figure, and became the first player in Sun Belt history to top 1,200 career rebounds last week. He enters this week needing 13 points to become the first player in league history with 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.