STATESBORO, Ga. — It took 14 games and more than two months, but the Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball team finally picked up its first road win of the season by dropping Georgia Southern 74-65.
Big man Shawn Long had 23 points and 17 rebounds for the Cajuns (6-8, 2-3 Sun Belt Conference), who led Georgia Southern (5-10, 1-4) by as many as 16 points in the second half.
It was one of the Cajuns’ more complete games of the season.
Even after going into their third straight late-game shooting funk, making just two of their final nine field goal attempts, the Cajuns finished the game shooting 47 percent from the floor.
They held Georgia Southern to just 36 percent shooting, including a horrid 1-for-14 mark from 3-point range. Coach Bob Marlin identified 3-point defense as a key heading into the matchup, as Georgia Southern entered the game leading the conference in 3-point attempts.
“They made one 3 for the game, and that was in transition,” Marlin said in a postgame radio interview. “… We did a good job defending the 3. This team is shooting 28 (3-pointers) per game, we held them to 1-for-14.”
That defensive effort was especially stingy in the second half, when the Cajuns pulled away by limiting the Eagles to a 9-for-34 shooting effort, including an 0-for-9 mark from beyond the 3-point arc.
It was a tight game going into the locker room at halftime. A Kasey Shepherd buzzer-beater gave the Cajuns a 38-35 lead going into the break.
But that shot by Shepherd did more than give the Cajuns a little bit of breathing room heading into halftime. It marked the beginning of a 22-9 run that the Cajuns used to take the game over.
Over roughly the next 11 minutes, the Cajuns made 11 of their 21 field goal attempts, culminating in a Long slam that pushed the lead to 60-44 with 9:06 to play.
The Eagles tried to use a zone defense to slow down the Cajuns offensive attack, but the Cajuns continuously found a crease to attack. Each of the 10 buckets that the Cajuns sank after Shepherd’s shot came in the paint.
Long was particularly dominant against Georgia Southern’s undersized unit. He made 10 of his 13 shot attempts, and turned in a double-double in the second half alone, with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the final period.
Georgia Southern actually had a 22-12 advantage in the paint in the first half, but the Cajuns outscored them 28-14 in paint in the second half.
Tookie Brown, who came in averaging 17.1 points per game for the Eagles, scored a team-high 20 points despite going 0-for-4 from 3-point range.
“He’s a good player and he got to the basket early,” Marlin said. “He didn’t shoot the ball from the perimeter very much, made a couple of tough 2s, but everything else was going to the hole.”
The Cajuns will bus to Atlanta for their next contest against rival Georgia State, who knocked off ULM Thursday to move to 11-3 on the season and 4-1 in SBC play. The Panthers are 8-0 on their home floor this season.
“The guys are happy for the victory tonight, but they’re already talking about the next one,” Marlin said. “If we go in and shoot the ball well, we’ll have a great opportunity to win.”