LAFAYETTE — Once the shots started falling for Louisiana-Lafayette’s basketball team Wednesday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, they never really stopped.
The Cajuns (18-14) hit 11 of their final 18 shots from 3-point range, and 31 of their final 49 overall on their way to a 96-72 romp against the Islanders in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT).
Senior guard Kasey Shepherd was scoreless for the first 16 minutes, and then he went berserk, scoring a career-high 28 points before he was pulled with a couple minutes remaining.
“He missed a couple early when he was open, and after that they all looked like they were going to go in,” coach Bob Marlin said.
Shepherd finished the game with six 3-pointers to tie his career high and move him into sixth place on the Cajuns all-time list. He’s also now just 17 points shy of 1,000 for his career.
As good as it ended up, it looked like it was going to be one of those bad nights at first.
Nothing would fall for the Cajuns in the early going against Corpus Christi, even though they were getting good looks at the basket.
The Cajuns made just three of their first 16 shot attempts, a number that included an 0-for-6 effort from the 3-point line.
“We got off to a slow start,” Marlin said. “I’ll give Corpus Christi credit for that.”
Ten minutes into the game, they’d fallen behind 19-12, and the only reason it was that close was because of an outstanding effort at the free-throw line early in the game.
Then Jay Wright opened up the floodgates.
The junior point guard knifed through the lane and layed it in to cut the Islanders lead to three with 8:58 to go in the first half. By the time he had finished scoring 10 straight Cajuns points, they had a two-point lead.
After his layup, Wright hit a transition 3-pointer to tie the game at 19. Corpus Christi’s Hameed Ali answered with a 3-pointer, but Wright was ready with an answer to the answer, drilling another 3-pointer near the top of the key.
He wasn’t done. After his second 3-pointer, he stole the ball from Corpus Christi’s Rashawn Thomas and raced down the court for a layup, giving him 10 points in a span of less than two minutes.
Once Wright went off, the lid covering the goal was unscrewed for the rest of his teammates.
“It closed the gap for the game,” Shepherd said. “Once it happened, we were able to take a deep breath and say, ‘We’re back in the game.’ ”
Steve Wronkoski, who started the game on the bench, drilled three 3-pointers in the final 5 1/2 minutes of the first half.
Shepherd missed his first three attempts of the game from 3-point range, all of which came on good looks. That didn’t deter him from firing away as the game went on. He knocked down four straight from deep, and finished the game hitting six of his final nine shots from 3-point range.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Shepherd said. “When you get in the zone, the basket just seems to open up. You have players around you, coaches, whispering, ‘If you catch it, shoot it. If you’re open, shoot it.’ ”
Senior forward Shawn Long scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the game to give him his 74th career double-double, which moved him into 12th place on the NCAA’s all-time list.
The Cajuns were originally hoping to earn a second-round CIT bye, which goes to the top three remaining teams ranked by Ken Pomeroy RPI rankings, but the three teams ranked ahead of the Cajuns each won in the first round.
It was too early for Marlin to know anything about the Cajuns second-round plans, but the team will have to play on the road because the Cajundome will not be available.