LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette basketball team stepped on the accelerator early and did not let up in a 97-64 win against visiting McNeese State on Wednesday night.
Senior forward Shawn Long continued his early-season dominance with 24 points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes, and the Cajuns (3-3) led the Cowboys (1-6) by as many as 40 points.
“We popped the game open right there in the middle of the first half and we were able to complete the game in the second half,” said coach Bob Marlin.
After a back-and-forth opening few minutes, the Cajuns (3-3) used a 19-0 run to take control of the game midway through the first half. Forward Jay Hedgeman set the stage for the run to commence, and then finished it off with twin exclamation marks.
The two teams traded 3-pointers to make it a 19-15 Cajuns advantage with 11:36 to go, but Hedgeman answered with another 3-pointer.
“That’s what got the guys going, that’s what fired us up even more,” Hedgeman said. “We had a good start, but I felt that was the booster for us to take it to another level.”
McNeese answered Hedgeman’s 3-pointer with a second-chance layup, but over the next 5:30 the Cajuns sunk seven of nine shots to turn their five point lead into a 24-point lead.
The last two of those shots were thunderous dunks by Hedgeman, the first of which came as he sliced through the lane before throwing it down over a couple defenders, the second of which came on fast break.
“The first one happened so fast, it was just in a split second. The second one was like icing on the cake,” Hedgeman said. “You’ve got to come with it, because you’re in our home. You’re not going to step foot in our home and think you’re going to get a win over us.”
Eighteen of Long’s 24 points came in the first half, and the only shot he missed inside the 3-point line came on a contested shot off an inbounds play.
Playing an equal role in the win was the Cajuns improvement on the defensive end. After allowing both Alabama and ULM to knock down 60 percent of their shots from 3-point range, the Cajuns tightened up on the Cowboys.
McNeese did manage to hit three of their first six shot attempts from deep, but finished the game making just four of their final 16.
“We’re just trying to get better defensively, because that’s how championships are won,” Long said. “It’s been kind of a pattern, teams are shooting the ball well. They got off to a good start, it was kind of one of those things where you put your foot down and shut it down,”
The Cajuns also forced 20 turnovers, which they turned into 34 points. McNeese only scored four points off 10 Cajuns turnovers.
Each of the 13 players that suited up for the Cajuns scored, and both Hedgeman (13) and Kasey Shepherd (10) chipped in double digit scoring efforts off the bench.
After Wednesday’s 97-point outburst, the Cajuns are now averaging 103.4 points per game at home this season.
They won’t play at home again until December 21, though. Saturday’s game against Louisiana Tech begins a three-game road swing that will include games against UCLA and Pepperdine in California.
“It’s good to beat an in-state rival and I’m looking forward to playing the next one,” Marlin said.