The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s men’s basketball team is averaging 89.0 points in the past three games of its four-game Sun Belt Conference win streak.
That’s an impressive number, considering that the Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t shot nearly as well from the perimeter as coach Bob Marlin would like.
“I talked to a couple of coaches that said, ‘If your guys had shot it well, you’d have a couple of more wins,’ and we’d be in great position,” Marlin said Monday. “We’re still the only team in the league that doesn’t shoot 30 percent from 3-point range.”
The Cajuns (9-8, 5-3 Sun Belt) have begun to find their long-distance touch, hitting more than 40 percent outside the arc in each of their past three games. UL-Lafayette, which was shooting 27.3 percent on 3-pointers three games ago, was 6-of-13 on 3-pointers in Saturday’s runaway 88-65 home win over Troy.
The Cajuns had 21 combined 3-pointers in the previous wins over Georgia State and South Alabama and now are shooting 29.9 percent.
In Saturday’s win, though, the Cajuns didn’t need their outside touch. Against the Trojans, UL-Lafayette’s big contingent of Shawn Long, Bryce Washington, Jay Hedgeman and Devonta Walker combined to hit 12-of-14 shots in the first half. In all, the Cajuns scored 50 points in the paint, much of that in a first half when the hosts went 20-of-28 from the field.
The Cajuns did that with reigning national midmajor player of the week Long limited to two shots and five points.
“It was a little bit different way for us to score,” Marlin said. “Shawn didn’t have a big first half when he was getting doubled and tripled, but we were able to get the ball to Bryce and some others and get a couple of easy baskets.”
Long took control in the second half, finishing with 20 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and three assists. He increased his nation-leading career double-double total to 64 and enters Thursday’s home game against Texas State fourth nationally in rebounding (12.6) and third in the Sun Belt in scoring (18.7).
Marlin has made a point of keeping individual players’ minutes down over the past two seasons after he saw the physical toll that extended minutes took on some players the previous two campaigns. In the 2012-13 season, three players — Elfrid Payton, Shawn Long and Bryant Mbamalu — each logged more than 31 minutes per game. And the following year, Payton was in for 35.9 minutes per game.
Last year, Long had the highest minute total with 28 per game, and 10 players had double-figure minutes. So far this season, Long is at 29.5 and 10 players are averaging 9.3 or more minutes. Marlin said the cutback also spills over into midseason practices.
“We’ve had two excellent weeks of practice,” Marlin said. “We don’t practice real long right now, but we want to make sure we have great energy and they’re focused on the game plan. We had a good short workout Friday, and it was a good prep for our Troy game.
Home sweet home
The Cajuns are in the middle of a five-game homestand and have seven home wins in eight games, which also helps the energy level.
But Marlin said his team’s three Sun Belt home wins — over Appalachian State, South Alabama and Troy — will be tough to match the rest of the way. Those three have a combined 6-17 record.
“They’re not at the top of the league,” Marlin said. “We’ve got some very tough home games in front of us starting Thursday with Texas State. We knew that we had to take advantage of this opportunity early. Our goal is to go undefeated at home, and it’s going to take a yeoman’s effort to get that done.”
No more T’s
After Thursday’s rugged 92-82 win over South Alabama in which nine technical fouls were whistled, drawing a word of warning from the conference office, the Cajuns had no technicals against Troy on Saturday. The only “T” in that game went to Trojan forward John Walton III.
South Alabama, which had five players draw technical fouls Thursday, had two of the same players — John Brown and Shaq Calhoun — hit with technicals in Saturday’s 100-68 loss at UL-Monroe.
“I don’t think we were the start of that,” Marlin said referring to Thursday’s tech-fest. “Looking at the box on Saturday, they had a couple of more. That answers your question right there ... same people.”
Saturday’s women-men doubleheader against UT Arlington has been moved up two hours to 2 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. tipoffs to dodge the city’s first Mardi Gras parade of the season.
With the Krewe of Carnivale en Rio parade passing by the Cajundome on two sides and ending across the street at Cajun Field, officials moved the twinbill up to avoid traffic congestion and give fans the opportunity to attend all three events.
The Cajuns drew a season-high 6,064 fans for their Saturday win over Troy, and the doubleheader opener drew the second-largest of the season (1,292) for the women’s game. The Cajuns men are averaging 3,931 fans per home game, the top figure in the Sun Belt Conference.
All about the shoes
The Cajuns coaching staff will be doing their part in two shoe-related causes in this week’s two home games, beginning Thursday night with a “soles for souls” collection at the Cajundome.
Fans are asked to bring “gently-used” sneakers for collection by members of the UL-Lafayette Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at the door from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Those shoes will be donated to needy children throughout the world as part of the international “Samaritan’s Feet” program that has given away millions of shoes in an attempt to eliminate foot-borne diseases that kill or maim more than a million people every year worldwide.
“If you need a new pair and want to turn some in, it’s a good opportunity,” Marlin said. “It’s a good opportunity to give something back.”
Saturday’s home contest against UT Arlington will be the annual “Coaches vs. Cancer” game, with the staff wearing sneakers during the game to spotlight cancer awareness.