Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin knows his team won’t match Saturday’s offensive performance very often in Sun Belt Conference play this season.
The Ragin’ Cajuns rolled past outmanned Troy 91-64 for their second league win in as many games, shooting 67.7 percent in a 52-point second half that gave the Cajuns (8-5, 2-0) their eighth straight 80-point outing. UL-Lafayette has averaged 95.3 points in that stretch and ranks 11th nationally with an 82.7 scoring average.
“That’s going to be difficult to do every night,” Marlin said. “There are a lot of teams that are going to play slow in the league, and App is one of them.”
“App” is Appalachian State, which will host UL-Lafayette in its first Sun Belt home game at 6:30 p.m. Monday. The Mountaineers (4-6, 1-0), who joined the league this season, haven’t faced the Cajuns since 1989-90, when UL-Lafayette won both ends of a home-and-home series.
ASU already has made its presence known in the Sun Belt, rallying from a 14-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to upset host Arkansas State 74-73 on Saturday. The Mountaineers hit 13 of their last 19 shots to complete their largest comeback in nearly eight seasons and snap Arkansas State’s four-game winning streak.
The Cajuns had an even more impressive shooting run in Saturday’s romp over the Trojans, hitting 13 of their first 15 shots to open the second half to pad a 39-31 halftime lead. Part of that streak came in a 25-6 run that spanned the halves and helped the hosts build a 30-point lead in the final six minutes.
“We hadn’t been shooting the ball like we can,” said senior forward Brian Williams, one of four Cajuns averaging in double figures (11.9 points). “We have a lot of guys that can score the ball.”
That will be tougher to do Monday. For one, UL-Lafayette has won only once in five road outings this season, even though the last one was Tuesday’s 83-79 overtime win at Arkansas-Little Rock in the Sun Belt opener.
More significantly, the Mountaineers likely will try to avoid the up-and-down tempo the Cajuns forced on the Trojans. Before Saturday’s win, ASU had scored more than 67 points only once in nine games and had averaged only 58 points in the previous four games — all losses.
“They’re a lot like Troy and UALR in that they’ll use the clock to get a great shot every possession,” Marlin said. “We’ll need to get up a lot of shots.”
Monday’s game, coming less than 48 hours after Saturday’s home win, is part of a frenetic early-conference schedule for the Cajuns. After Monday’s game, UL-Lafayette returns home for a big Thursday meeting with defending regular-season Sun Belt champion Georgia State — the team the Cajuns beat in last year’s tournament final to advance to the NCAA tournament — and then has a rare Saturday off.
“It’s a long grind,” Marlin said. “It’s a tough time for us. ... We have 10 games in 23 days and don’t even play next Saturday. It’s like an NBA schedule.”
Appalachian State can sympathize: The Mountaineers play their first home game in 29 days Monday. Junior guard Frank Eaves, who had 22 points in Saturday’s win at Arkansas State, leads the Mountaineers with a 16.6-point scoring average, while senior forward Tommy Spagnolo is at 11.1 with 7.7 rebounds.
Junior forward Shawn Long had 18 points against Troy and leads UL-Lafayette at 15.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. The Morgan City product had 23 points and 12 boards at UALR, the 40th double-double of his career.
Point guard Jay Wright had a career-high 20 points against Troy, including three straight 3-pointers in a two-minute span early in the second half.
“We don’t ask him to do that,” Marlin said. “He’s our best on-ball defender, and he runs the team; that was the first time in four or five games that he’s had a turnover. But he got in there and hit some shots and got some confidence. His energy early in the second half was huge.”
Women eye first Sun Belt win
The UL-Lafayette women will go after their first Sun Belt win when they face Appalachian State for the first time ever at 4 p.m. The game will air on KPEL-AM, 1420.
The Cajuns (8-3, 0-2) won eight of their first nine but have since lost both of their Sun Belt games, falling at UALR 67-41 on Tuesday and having a rally from a 19-point deficit come up short in a 60-55 home loss to Troy on Saturday. UL-Lafayette shot less than 30 percent in both losses.
Appalachian State (5-5, 0-1) lost at preseason league favorite Arkansas State 89-75 on Saturday. The Mountaineers are 4-1 at home this season.