LAFAYETTE — It took a while for the Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball team to find its shooting touch, but when that happened, it was bad news for Troy.
The Ragin’ Cajuns made 13 of their first 15 shots in the second half, only missed 10 shots in the final 21 minutes and ran the Trojans out of the Cajundome in a 91-64 victory in their Sun Belt Conference home opener Saturday night.
The Cajuns (8-5, 2-0) won for the fifth time in six outings thanks to that 67.7 percent shooting mark in the second half, when they broke open a 39-31 game at halftime and eventually led by as many as 30 in the final five minutes.
“It starts with defending the ball,” said point guard Jay Wright, who had a career-high 20 points as one of four double-figure scorers. “Our defense is what picks us up and starts our energy. After that, our guys were making plays and kicking it back out.”
UL-Lafayette made five 3-pointers in a seven-minute stretch after halftime, with Wright responsible for three of those in just over two minutes.
That helped the Cajuns stretch a 53-42 advantage to a 64-45 lead with 12:05 left.
“We made some adjustments at halftime, and when we came out, we were able to score the ball well,” Cajuns coach Bob Marlin said. “I think we scored on 18 of 22 possessions to start the half. Troy looked like they were a little fatigued. ... They don’t have the depth we have, and the speed of Jay and Kasey (Shepherd) was a big factor.”
Shepherd, who had 15 first-half points in Tuesday’s 83-79 overtime win at Arkansas-Little Rock, added 19 points, Shawn Long 18 and Brian Williams 15. The fifth starter, Devonta Walker, had nine points, and in all the Cajun starters made 31-of-48 shots (64.6 percent).
The Trojans (5-6, 0-2) struggled offensively, with the notable exception of freshman Wesley Person. The son of former Auburn standout Wesley Person had 17 points in the first half and finished with 28 on 9-of-15 shooting. Other than Person — the first freshman to start for Troy since 1999 — the rest of the Trojans shot less than 38 percent.
“We had some breakdowns defensively early,” Marlin said. “In the first half, we let Person loose defensively a couple of times. ... We played three different defenses, and I thought that stole some possessions for us.”
That defense forced 19 turnovers from the Trojans and was key in a big sequence late in the first half. Wright hit a jumper with 3:16 left to give UL-Lafayette the lead for good at 30-28, then had a dunk off his own steal 15 seconds later. On the ensuing Trojans possession, Long stuffed a dunk attempt by All-Sun Belt forward Kevin Thomas, and Wright found a streaking Long in transition for a dunk and a 34-28 lead.
That was part of an 11-3 run to end the first half, and the Cajuns had a 12-3 run to start the second. Shepherd’s 3 at 17:12 made it 51-34, and Troy never got closer than 11 points after that.
UL-Lafayette has scored 80 or more points in seven straight games and is averaging 95.3 points in that run. The Cajuns also had a season-low nine turnovers; an early-season stretch included 20-plus turnovers in four of five games.
“Our biggest thing early was we didn’t have chemistry,” Williams said. “Now we’re at the point where we know where guys are going to be, and we have a lot of guys that can score the ball. Tonight, guys jumped up and shot with confidence.”
The Cajuns built a 73-47 lead with just under 10 minutes remaining. Unlike Tuesday, when UL-Lafayette had a 14-point lead vanish in the final 10 minutes, the margin never got below 24 the rest of the way.
“We learned our lesson the other night,” Williams said. “We want to play fast and keep the other guys in check. And when something bad happens now, we just keep playing.”