Hayward Register didn’t play at all when Louisiana-Lafayette traveled north and rolled past Appalachian State earlier this season.
The Lafayette sophomore that teammates call “Cash” made up for lost time Thursday night.
Register nailed six of his eight 3-point baskets on the way to a career-high 20 points, and Shawn Long provided the other half of the outside-inside attack in what turned into an 81-66 win over the Mountaineers.
The Cajuns (13-10, 7-5 Sun Belt) led by as many as 12 points in the first nine minutes, and after ASU rallied to tie the game early in the second half UL-Lafayette went on an 11-2 run and led by double figures over the final eight minutes.
Long had his 46th career double-double — the nation’s high among active players — with 22 points and 14 rebounds. But Long was happier with the way Register got rolling late in the first half.
“It makes it a lot easier when he knocks down shots,” Long said. “It’s nothing new to us. We see him at practice and he makes some crazy shots. Teams will learn to respect him, and that makes it easier for me to get the ball on the block.”
Appalachian State coach Jim Fox said that the Cajuns’ in-and-out combination was the biggest factor in UL-Lafayette taking its second double-figure win over the Mountaineers this season.
“They caught it down low too easy,” Fox said, “and (Register) goes 6-for-8 from (3-point territory). You can’t win a game letting them do that.”
The win was the second in a row after a streak of five losses in six games for the Cajuns, who play the second half of their homestand Saturday afternoon against Texas-Arlington on ESPN2. The Mountaineers (8-12, 5-6) lost their second straight after a four-game win streak.
UL-Lafayette took an 80-64 win in Boone, North Carolina on Jan. 5. Register, who had 19 points in the Cajuns’ last home game against South Alabama, did not make that trip because of back spasms.
“I was trying not to force anything,” said Register, who was making his first home start. “The first four or five minutes I didn’t touch the ball, but when I hit my first 3 it gave me some confidence.”
That first 3-pointer came with 15:14 left in the first half and stretched UL-Lafayette’s lead to 15-7, and he had three more in his 14-point first half. But the Mountaineers got two late inside baskets from Tommy Spagnolo and a 3-pointer from leading scorer Frank Eaves at the horn to cut the difference to 48-41.
Then, ASU scored the second half’s first six points, and one minute later Chris Burgess’ 3-pointer from the key tie the game for the first time at 50.
But over the next six minutes, the Mountaineers had only one field goal on Eaves’ driving layup, and Brian Williams’ alley-oop dunk gave the Cajuns the lead for good at 52-50 and keyed the 11-2 run.
“We lost a little momentum at the end of the half,” said Cajuns coach Bob Marlin, “and had three turnovers in four possessions to start the half. We couldn’t score there for a minute but we hung in and fought through it, and then had a really good stretch defensively.”
The Mountaineers had two baskets in a 10-minute span midway through the half when UL-Lafayette built its twin-digit margin, and Register added two more treys in the final 4:51 to stretch the final margin.
Bryce Washington and Brian Williams added 10 each for the Cajuns. Eaves and Jake Babic each had 16 for ASU, but Eaves only had two second-half baskets with Williams and Johnathan Stove applying the defensive pressure.“
He’d had 27, 29 and 31 in three of his last five games,” Marlin said of Eaves. “To hold him to 5-of-17, that’s big because he’s capable of big numbers. Our guys know if we’re going to move forward, it’s going to be defensively.”
It doesn’t hurt to have Register and Long providing an early burst.
“We were climbing uphill the whole time,” Fox said, “and that takes a lot of energy. I thought we got worn down about the seven or eight minute mark of the second half.”
Register had his 20 points in only 21 minutes, missing his second shot of the game and then making six in a row.
“You can tell he’s got more confidence,” Marlin said. “We’ve always had confidence in him and right now he has more confidence in himself. He called one of the coaches last week and asked what he needed to do to stay in the lineup.”