LAFAYETTE — It got to the point where Cajuns players on the sidelines were celebrating before Hayward Register even had his hands on the ball.
“When he shoots it, we think it’s in,” said coach Bob Marlin.
That happened late in the second half of the Cajuns 81-66 win against Appalachian State, when Brian Williams and Johnathan Stove rose from their seats on the bench and raised their hands in the air as soon as Devonta Walker sent his pass to a wide open Register.
“I think it was a double team or something,” Register said. “I was like, ‘Ok, if you’re going to leave me open I’m just going to go ahead and knock this down.’ ”
That’s exactly what the Cajuns sharpshooter did. He calmly caught the ball, rose, released and sank his sixth trey of the evening, a dagger that put the Cajuns ahead by 15 points with 3:46 remaining.
Not a bad way to close out his first home start of his career.
Register finished with a career-high 20 points in his new starting role, and he likes being there. He said after the game that he’s more comfortable starting the game on the floor, and he called an assistant coach earlier in the week asking what he needed to do to remain in the starting five.
To this point in his career, Register has been used as a scoring spark off the bench. Marlin has said before this season that Register’s defensive game needs to catch up to his offensive game in order for him to see more time on the floor.
“We’re trying to make him a better basketball player,” Marlin said. “Slowly, he’s getting better.”
But the shooting the basketball part? They know that’s there. The 6-for-8 long-range clinic that Register put on Thursday night is practically a daily occurrence at the Cajuns practice facility.
“He knocks them down every day at practice,” said junior forward Shawn Long. “It’s nothing new to us.”
Register got off to a somewhat slow start Thursday, considering he barely touched the ball in the first four minutes of the game. But once the floodgates opened, Register started raining treys.
“I kept moving out there,” Register said. “… Finally I hit my first 3, and it went up from there.”
He hit his first at the 15:15 mark of the first half, when he shook loose of his defender and beat him with a quick catch-and-release 3-point jumper. He nailed three more triples in the first half, giving him a team-high 14 points at the break.
It was the second start in a row for Register, and based on his performance Thursday night, it’d be a safe bet he’ll get his third Saturday against UT-Arlington.
“We’ve always had confidence in him and I think he has more confidence in himself now that he’s playing,” Marlin said.
Confidence is never anything that’s been in short supply for Register, though. When asked if he felt especially good before the game against Appalachian State, Register shrugged.
“I think I’m going to be on every night to be honest with you,” Register said. “Each shot I shoot, I believe I’m going to make it.”