LAFAYETTE — After watching Kasey Shepherd play against South Alabama on Thursday night, maybe every player wants to rupture a tendon in his shooting hand.
Louisiana-Lafayette’s senior guard erupted for a career-high 27 points to propel the Cajuns (8-8, 4-3 Sun Belt) to a 92-82 win in contest against South Alabama (7-11, 2-5). The win put the Cajuns above the .500 mark for the first time since Dec. 9.
Shepherd, who ruptured a tendon in his shooting hand while diving for a loose ball in the Cajuns win against Georgia State last week, didn’t enter the game until the 12:50 mark in the first half.
“Naturally when you injure something you want to baby it and avoid contact, but I told myself in practice that it was going to happen regardless,” Shepherd said about his hand.
Fifteen minutes later, the senior had already set a career-high in scoring. He did his damage almost exclusively from the 3-point line and the free throw line, where he fittingly set career highs in makes with six 3-pointers and seven made free throws.
“It gets (the team) excited when he starts making baskets,” coach Bob Marlin said.
With the Jaguars doing an effective job limiting big man Shawn Long’s touches down low, Shepherd made them pay from the outside. The Cajuns trailed by six midway through the first half when Shepherd started going bonkers.
He scored 10 consecutive points for the Cajuns during a span of less than two minutes, knocking down a trio of 3-pointers and a free throw. The Cajuns closed the gap to one point while Shepherd drilled away, then took the lead for good with a couple trips to the free throw line.
An otherwise entertaining first half was marred by an abundance of fouls, and they came in all shapes. The officiating crew called 26 fouls in the first half, including five technical fouls and one flagrant foul.
The flagrant foul and two of the technicals came on the final play of the first half, and the referees had to go to the monitor to determine who deserved what after Ken Williams’ driving layup to close the half.
The two teams had to be separated for a second time before they went to their respective lockers for halftime.
Before the clock even started running in the second half, the Cajuns shot four free throws — with Shepherd taking and making all four — and the Jaguars shot two.
The Cajuns used the somewhat quick whistle to their advantage, though.
Despite the fact that the Jaguars finished the first half shooting an absurd 68 percent (17-of-25) from the floor, including a 67 percent (6-of-9) from the 3-point line, and despite the fact that they’d made four more field goals than the Cajuns, it was the Cajuns who held a two-point lead at the break.
That was because the Cajuns went 14-for-20 from the free throw line in the first half. The Cajuns finished the game with a season-high in free throws made (34) and attempted (47).
And Shepherd stayed hot when the second half opened back up, turning a close game into a blowout. In addition to the four free throws before the clock started running, he hit two more 3-pointers in the first 2:16, giving him his second stretch of the game in which he scored 10 points in less than two and a half minutes.
Shepherd led six Cajuns scorers in double figures. Hayward Register also came off the bench to have a nice night, with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting, and four of the five starters finished in double figures.
The Cajuns have now won three straight games for the first time this season and will look to extend their winning streak to four against Troy.
“It’s time to turn it up,” said sophomore Bryce Washington. “That’s what we’re doing right now, we’ve got to continue doing that.”