With their two inside forces and one prominent newcomer sidelined with injuries, Louisiana-Lafayette had to lean on a lot of new faces in its men’s basketball exhibition opener Wednesday night.
Fortunately for coach Bob Marlin, his Ragin’ Cajun squad is even deeper than last year’s NCAA tournament unit.
Newcomers and Louisiana products Brian Williams, Bryce Washington and Johnathan Stove provided double-figure scoring efforts. And guard Kasey Shepherd, who missed the last half of last season with a knee injury, led the squad in rebounds and assists as the Cajuns rolled to an 87-60 win over Loyola New Orleans.
Shawn Long, a returning first-team All-Sun Belt Conference pick, was out with a bruised foot, and backup post J. J. Davenport had stomach issues respectively. Highly regarded junior-college transfer Devonta Walker did not play with a sore shoulder.
“We knew going in that our top three inside guys weren’t going to play,” said Marlin, who figures to have all three available for next Friday’s regular-season opener against Louisiana College. “We had to play smaller than we’d hoped.”
Washington, a freshman from St. Augustine, stepped up with a 16-point, six-rebound effort in a surprise start.
“I was nervous, but I got comfortable pretty quick,” Washington said. “There were some early game jitters. But once we got going, I kind of calmed down.”
Williams added 14 points in his first UL-Lafayette appearance. The Glen Oaks graduate transferred from Oklahoma State after last season. Freshman Stove, who starred at Christian Life, scored all 10 of his points in the second half when the Cajuns broke open a game that was close through the first 27 minutes.
“This was a dress rehearsal for us in a lot of ways,” Marlin said. “We didn’t defend the way we needed to early, and we were in too much of a hurry offensively and never got in a rhythm. In the second half, we did a better job on both ends.”
The Cajuns led by 15 late in the first half on Williams’ baseline jumper that made it 32-17, but the Wolfpack rallied to pull within 39-31 at halftime behind Robert Lovaglio’s 10 first-half points. It was still 49-41 with 13:19 left before UL-Lafayette went on a 9-0 run keyed by two Williams baskets, starting a 23-6 stretch.
The Cajuns limited Loyola to 33.3 percent shooting and forced 21 turnovers while shooting 54.5 percent from the field, a number bolstered by 28 points off Wolfpack turnovers.
“I liked that in the second half we had good ball pressure,” said Shepherd, who finished with nine points, nine boards and four assists. “And our new guys showed they can play.”
UL-Lafayette 69, LSU-Alexandria 44: The UL-Lafayette women broke open a tight game with an 18-2 run to end the first half and put four players in double figures in rolling to an exhibition win over LSU-Alexandria.
Keke Veal had 18 points, including eight in a four-minute period late in the first half, when the Cajuns scored 11 unanswered points to take a 29-18 lead. Veal was returning after missing the last half of the 2013-14 season with a leg injury.
Freshman Simone Fields had the first four points in that streak and finished with 10 points and a team-high six rebounds. Kia Wilridge scored 15 points and Gabby Alexander 14.
Kayla Morgan’s 3-pointer, one of four LSU-A hit in the game’s first 11 minutes, tied the game at 18 with 9:20 left in the half. But the Lady Generals scored only two points the rest of the half as the Cajuns had 11-0 and 7-0 runs in building a 36-20 halftime lead. Wilridge’s steal and driving layup capped a 27-4 run four minutes into the second half that made it 45-22.
UL-Lafayette forced 22 turnovers and held LSU-A to 28.6 percent shooting.
“Our defense took awhile to come around,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “They let us play some tonight, and when we realized we could, our kids got more confident and aggressive.”
Kelsey Thibodeaux, Taylor Maricle and Reagan Maricle, all transfers from LSU-Eunice, had eight each to lead LSU-A.