Entering Saturday’s matchup at Timmons Arena, all Kasey Shepherd needed was 17-points, all he wanted was a win. All Furman offered was opportunity.
Senior guard Shepherd shot 6-0f-16 from the field to push the University of Louisiana at Lafayette men’s basketball team past Furman 80-72 in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
The Cajuns (19-14) reached the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year and return home to the play an undetermined opponent.
After torching Texas A&M Corpus Christi, for a career high 28 points, Shepherd delivered a team-high 18 points, becoming the 43rd player in school history to reach the 1,000 mark.
Shepherd said achieving the milestone crossed his mind for much of the week but he was more focused on contributing to the team effort.
“It was in the back of my head. But once the game started, I kind of forgot about it until halftime,” Shepherd said. “When I got to fifteen points I said, ‘I almost there.’ Before I knew it, it was over.”
With three minutes to go, Shepherd stole a Paladins inbound pass and finished with a layup.
But that was not the only milestone realized.
Senior forward Shawn Long grabbed four rebounds, becoming the fourth player in school history with 400 rebounds in a season. Long, who found himself in early foul trouble, finished with 10 points in 21 minutes.
Devonta Walker had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Cajuns.
But the man of the night was Shepherd.
“(Shepherd) worked hard for this,” Cajuns coach Bob Marlin said. “A lot of times, he shoots more than anyone else on our team after practice. For him to reach this is special, and he has come a long way.”
UL-Lafayette opened strong, limiting Furman to one field goal in the opening minutes.
It was Walker with the hot hand early, shooting 4-of-6 from the field as the Cajuns opened a 12-3 run.
Walker outscored and outrebounded the Paladins, delivering eight points and four rebounds in the first five minutes.
Shepherd got on the board at the 12:55 mark, nailing an open 3-point look off an assist from Steven Wronkoski from the top of the key. Shepherd delivered another 3-pointer two minutes later for his only points of the first half, in which he was 2-of-7.
But the Paladins clawed back, engineering a run of their own, sparked by two back-to-back 3-pointers from senior guard Stephen Croone. By then the score was 31-17.
After a Cajuns timeout, the Paladins continued to cut into the Cajuns lead with six points from Devin Sibley and Kendrec Ferrrara.
The Cajuns held Furman to 28 points in the first half. By then, Walker had a double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Jay Wright and Wronkski combined for 11 points and five rebounds.
UL-Lafayette responded in the second period with early buckets from Walker and Long, but eyes shifted to Shepherd, who came alive in the second period drilling his first two shots.
The Paladins inched closer but couldn’t fully recover from a slow start.
Croone led all scorers with 29 points, while Devin Sibley contributed 15 for the Paladins (19-16).
“I thought our team battled, but our offense wasn’t what it needed to be to beat this team,” Furman coach Niko Medved said. “We just couldn’t make shots and got beat tonight.”