STATESBORO, Ga. — The Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball team was not able to weather a poor shooting effort to start their road game against Georgia Southern and fell for the first time in Sun Belt Conference play this season, 78-70.
Like their game a week ago against Georgia State, the Cajuns (10-6, 4-1 SBC) got off to a slow start from the field, scoring only 14 points in the first 15 minutes and change. Though the Cajuns found their shooting touch later in the game, Georgia Southern (11-3, 4-1) was able to hold on by making free throws in the closing minutes.
“We gave ourselves an opportunity to win, but we couldn’t make the plays when we needed to,” Cajuns coach Bob Marlin in a postgame radio interview.
The Cajuns trailed by nine with three minutes remaining, but clawed back into it thanks to some clutch shooting by reserve guard Hayward Register, who was playing for the first time in a couple weeks.
Register picked up some of the scoring slack, knocking down four 3-pointers to give him 12 points, including two in the final two minutes to help cut the nine-point deficit down to three.
But the Eagles knocked down seven free throws in the final minute of the game and the Cajuns’ well of clutch shots dried up.
“We made a valiant effort, but we couldn’t get it done,” Marlin said.
The Cajuns did everything they could to bottle up Georgia Southern’s leading scorers Jelani Hewitt and Trent Weideman, who came into the game averaging a combined 33.8 points per game.
Hewitt did some damage with 11 first-half points, but the Cajuns limited the duo to a 7-for-24 night from the field.
“We did a decent job there,” Marlin said.
Despite the solid defensive effort on the Eagles’ top offensive players, the Cajuns simply couldn’t overcome their poor start.
At one point late in the first half, the Cajuns had just as many turnovers (9) as they did made field goals.
The Cajuns’ starting backcourt of Kasey Shepherd and Jay Wright had a rough night on the offensive end, combining to make only one of their 13 shots from the floor.
“Our guard play wasn’t very good tonight between our starting guards,” Marlin said. “… We’ve got to score and play better from the guard position.”
Junior forward Shawn Long led the Cajuns with 18 points, which included a pair of 3-point buckets, to move into 25th place on the Cajuns’ all-time scoring list.
UL-LAFAYETTE 69, GEORGIA SOUTHERN 57: In Statesboro, Ga., junior guard Keke Veal scored 22 points to lead the Cajuns past Georgia Southern.
Veal was struggling coming into the game, making only 12 of her last 54 field goal attempts (22.2 percent), but she connected on 9 of 20 inside the arc Thursday.
“Keke did a great job of taking the ball to the goal, especially in the second half,” said associate head coach Sallie Guillory in a news release. “She didn’t settle for bad shots. She attacked and was patient. Keke has been putting more work in the gym and her ball went in a lot more tonight.”
After starting the conference slate with three straight losses, the Cajuns (10-4, 2-3) have now won back-to-back SBC games by 20-plus points, and the script they followed against Georgia Southern (4-10, 1-4) looked similar to the ladies’ win against Georgia State last week.
The Cajuns forced 22 turnovers against the Lady Eagles, and scored 20 points off those turnovers. They forced 24 and scored 28 in last week’s win.
The Cajuns also sank 12 of their 13 free throw attempts, all in the second half, to ice the game.