LAFAYETTE — Once again, the Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball team proved it likes the taste of home cooking in a 97-64 beat-down of McNeese State on Wednesday.
Now they’ve got to find something palatable on the road.
The Cajuns begin a three-game road trip Saturday against Louisiana Tech, then make the trip west for a pair of games against UCLA and Pepperdine. They are hoping to improve their road record, which currently stands at 0-3.
“We need to have some success,” coach Bob Marlin said. “We’ve got a good team, we need to have some success and grow from this trip and this stretch of games.”
It certainly won’t be easy. In the past 55 games at Louisiana Tech’s Thomas Assembly Center, the Cajuns are the only visiting team to have walked out with a victory. The Bulldogs’ current home win streak stands at 35.
The difficulty of playing at perennial power UCLA’s historic Pauley Pavilion goes without saying, and the Bruins have already knocked off Kentucky this season. Pepperdine isn’t a slouch, either.
It starts Saturday against the Bulldogs, in a game Marlin said “feels like a conference game.” The Cajuns have won their past two meetings against Louisiana Tech.
“Louisiana Tech, we’ve kind of got the upper hand on those guys the last few years, so I know they’re going to give us their best shot and they’re a pretty good team,” said senior forward Shawn Long, who had 24 points and 15 rebounds in last year’s win against Louisiana Tech.
There won’t be near as much familiarity on the California trip. This will be the first trip for several Cajuns to the West Coast, and the opportunity to play in historic Pauley Pavilion
“We’ve got to bring our A-game, because they’re going to be at home, a big-time program,” Long said. “They’re going to bring their A-game and we’ve got to do the same.”
The main source of the Cajuns’ trouble on the road has come on the defensive end. Miami, Alabama and ULM combined to knock down 57 percent of their 3-point shots while rolling up 93 points per game on the Cajuns.
That’s why Marlin joked about what besides the essentials his players might want to remember to pack with them on the road trip.
“Hopefully our defense will travel,” Marlin said. “Maybe we need to pack our defense. I think that would be a good idea, I need to bring that up.”
Marlin said sophomore forward Bryce Washington was back to 100 percent, though he only played 22 minutes combined in the Cajuns last two games after missing the Loyola contest with an injury.
“He’s fine, no issues there,” Marlin said.
Senior forward Devonta Walker sat out the majority of the second half in the McNeese game. Marlin said he’s been dealing with tendonitis.
“Devonta’s knee was bothering him a little bit (Wednesday night),” Marlin said. “That’s why he never went back in the game, he was icing his knee and (athletic trainer B.J. Duplantis) said, ‘Let’s hold him out.’ ”
Defense earns minutes
Senior guard Tiremone Williams received his second career start against McNeese State on Wednesday, a move Marlin said was precipitated by a couple different factors.
“For defensive purposes, and … yesterday at practice, Hayward (Register) had his worst practice in about a week, Kasey (Shepherd) wasn’t very good,” Marlin said. “I just felt Tutu (Williams) was the next man up.”
Williams finished the game with one point, an assist and a steal in 10 minutes on the floor.
Where they rank
After Wednesday’s 97-pount outburst, the Cajuns were ranked No. 2 nationally in scoring at 91.8 points per game as of Thursday afternoon.
That’s a figure that is made somewhat more impressive by the fact that they’re still among the worst Division I schools in the country in 3-point shooting percentage, where the Cajuns’ 27.8 percent success rate checks them in at 323rd. ... At 11.2 rebounds per game, Long is the Sun Belt Conference’s leading rebounder and is ranked 14th nationally per game. He is also the SBC’s second leading scorer at 19.8 points per game.