SAN ANTONIO — Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin turned to one of his assistants during a dominating second-half run with a basic but profound observation Tuesday night.
“Simple game, isn’t it?”
Louisiana-Lafayette dominated the interior the second half after struggling to do so early, rolling to an 83-68 victory over the Incarnate Word Cardinals in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Bryce Washington had a season-high 25 points, Shawn Long added 11 points and a season-high five assists and the Ragin’ Cajuns came within two assists of matching their season-high as a team.
“It is a simple game,” Marlin said. “We assisted on 24 out of 30 baskets. We are an equal opporutunity offense, and I was glad to see our guys share the ball.”
Louisiana-Lafayette’s next opponent will be determined based on the results of the other first-round games.
The Ragin’ Cajuns went on a 32-6 run bridging the first and second halves, steamrolling the Cardinals of the Southland Conference.
Louisiana-Lafayette (21-13) needed that run after a sluggish start against Incarnate Word (18-11).
“We just weren’t executing,” Washington said. “We came out a little slow tonight. That’s kind of one of the problems that we have had all season. We just have to learn from it and come out faster in the next game.”
The Cardinals had three defenders close hard at Long on the first play, leading the 6-foot-9 junior to throw the ball out of bounds for a turnover.
The Ragin’ Cajuns fell behind by double digits in the first half despite shooting nearly 50 percent throughout. They had six turnovers while falling behind 39-34 at the half.
That’s when Marlin reminded his team who they are.
“We told them, ‘We didn’t have a winning road record in conference by going out and not guarding people,’ “ Marlin said. “We didn’t guard in the first half. In the second half the guys responded.”
Louisiana-Lafayette closed the second half on a 5-0 run and then opened the second half on a 27-6 run to take a commanding lead.
Washington made six consecutive points to close an 8-0 run to open the second half, giving the Ragin’ Cajuns their first lead at 41-39.
“Incarnate World outplayed us in the first half,” Marlin said. “In the second half, we settled down and really did some good things defensively.”
Louisiana-Lafayette held the Cardinals scoreless for nearly 5 minutes, embarking on 10-0 run to take a 59-45 lead, that ended with Tiremone Williams making a pair of free throws after Johnathan Stove made one of two free throws off a technical foul assessed when Incarnate Word complained about the foul for Williams.
Louisiana-Lafayette later had three consecutive steals, each resulting in a fastbreak layup, extending its lead to 71-49 with 7 minutes remaining.
The Ragin’ Cajuns finished with 10 steals, including seven in the second half.
“We had to defend,” Washington said. “For the past month we’ve really been defending very well. Really, our main focus was to defend in the second half. I think we did that, especially in the first 12 minutes of the second half.”
Louisiana-Lafayette held Denzel Livingston to seven points on 2-for-8 shooting. Livingston was averaging 22 points per game.
“Energy, energy and leadership,” Washington said of the difference in halves. “That’s really the main focus. Myself and John Stove, we like to bring energy and I think we did a bad job in the first half of that.”