LAFAYETTE — There were two similar plays from the Arkansas State game that stood out to Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin, mainly because of their unfortunately familiar results.
In a span of three possessions, the Cajuns set themselves up for two great looks for shooters they trust to knock down 3-point shots. Both Jay Wright and Kasey Shepherd missed. Arkansas State tied the game up on the next possession each time, and the Red Wolves completed a rally from a 13-point deficit to pull out a 71-69 win.
Marlin isn’t so sure Arkansas State would have been able to complete the comeback if the Cajuns could have just gotten one of those 3-pointers to fall.
“We were just one 3-point shot away from knocking it out,” Marlin said.
That has somewhat been the case all season for the Cajuns, who have yet to discover their touch from the perimeter this season. But that won’t stop them from trying to find it.
They’re shooting 27.2 percent from beyond the 3-point arc this season, which is the seventh-worst total among the 346 ranked Division I teams. They’ve shot below 30 percent from beyond the arc in all but three games this season, and have been held under 25 percent in four of their past five games.
“We’re on a little slump right now,” said point guard Jay Wright, who is one of two Cajuns shooting better than 30 percent on 3-pointers. “Things are hard. We’ve just got to keep making the right plays, and eventually we’ll start knocking down shots.”
That’s the Cajuns mentality in a nutshell. Despite the consistent lack of success, they’re still shooting, because they’re confident it’s going to turn around eventually if they keep at it.
Over that rough five-game stretch, the Cajuns averaged nearly 20 attempts from 3-point range per game, though they never made more than five in any of those games.
Essentially, they’re trying to shoot their way through a slump because they still believe they’re a good 3-point shooting team.
The Cajuns led the Sun Belt Conference in 3-point shooting a year ago, when they knocked down 35.6 percent as a team. They brought much of that same team back this season and have consistently seen those shooters knock down the 3-point shots in practice.
“In practice, we make 12, 15 in a row in our shooting drills,” Marlin said.
The main thing that can’t happen is for the team to start buying into the fact that it’s lost its touch from the perimeter, Wright said.
“You’ve got to keep positive and stay confident,” Wright said. “Don’t lose confidence in your shot. You’re playing Division I basketball for a reason. Just keep shooting, eventually you’re going to make your shots.
“We can do it. The worst thing is to think you can’t make shots. That’s when you start missing.”
The Cajuns aren’t planning on changing up their shot selection. They believe in their ability to knock down the shots when it counts, even after days like Saturday when they missed the two open looks that really counted.
“We all know we can shoot shots, it’s a matter of making them,” senior guard Steve Wronkoski said. “Making them on the road is a little tougher than making them in the Cajundome like we do every day. A lot of good shooting teams have a slump, and you just kind of shoot your way out of it.”
It could just be a matter of getting a couple of shots to fall to get the Cajuns back where they were a year ago.
“I think when we start hitting a couple, the basket will get a little bigger,” Marlin said. “We’re going to bust out, and hopefully it’ll be a fight at the bat rack when that happens.”