LAFAYETTE — The road has not been kind to the Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball team this season.
Saturday’s loss to Louisiana Tech dropped the Cajuns to 0-4 on the road this year, though it’s worth noting that those four games came against their toughest opponents this season: Miami, Alabama, Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana Tech have combined for a 25-8 record.
Still, with a trip on tap to California to face UCLA and Pepperdine this week, coach Bob Marlin was hopeful his team could have boarded the plane with some confidence.
“We’ve got a tough schedule, and on the road we’ve got to have some success,” Marlin said in his postgame radio interview Saturday. “We had an opportunity to do it tonight. This would’ve been a good win for us because it would’ve given us some confidence going into the California trip; we just didn’t do what we needed to do in the second half.”
The second half of the Louisiana Tech game was a microcosm of what has ailed the Cajuns on the road this season. The Bulldogs scored 58 points in the final 20 minutes, quickly erasing a double-digit deficit on their way to a 91-79 win.
Louisiana Tech made 54.5 percent of its second-half shots, and while the Cajuns played marginally better against the 3-pointer than they had been faring on the road, the Bulldogs traded out that success at the free-throw line, where they made 18-of-19 in the final 20 minutes.
The Cajuns haven’t fared poorly offensively on the road, but their work on the other end of the court has been troubling. They have allowed at least 90 points in three of their four road games, the outlier coming against ULM, when they gave up 81 to a team that came into the game averaging 70.4.
Now the Cajuns face the daunting task of looking for their first road win on a cross-country trip against a national powerhouse and another solid program.
Bringing out the best
Senior guard Kasey Shepherd scored a team-high 22 points off the bench in the losing effort against Louisiana Tech, matching his career high. That shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, though.
Shepherd scored 22 the last time he played in Ruston in 2013, then chipped in 16 against the Bulldogs last season.
“He loves the style of play that they put against us. ... He’s really good in the transition game,” Marlin said. “He had a couple tough layups that went in and out. He made a couple nice ones, and I thought he shot the ball well. We executed our plays. We got him some really good looks.”
Shepherd was on the floor for 37 minutes, and 15 of his points came in the second half.
On the other side, Louisiana Tech star Alex Hamilton continued to haunt the Cajuns. He scored 30 points Saturday, which followed a 27-point effort last season and a 17-point game two years ago.
Rim protection needed
Louisiana Tech became the second team to outscore the Cajuns in the paint, topping the Cajuns 42-38.
Some of that had to do with the Bulldogs taking away scoring opportunities for Cajuns big man Shawn Long, who was held to single digits for the first time this season with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting.
But after the game, Marlin was more focused on Long’s defensive effort.
“Shawn didn’t protect the basket and do what he’s capable of doing, I didn’t feel like,” Marlin said. “He wasn’t as active this afternoon as he has been. … Just didn’t have the energy, especially in the second half.”
Long finished without a block for the first time this season.
Junior guard Tyrone Wooten received the first start of his Cajuns career and finished with four points in 10 minutes. ... Jay Wright grabbed a season-high eight rebounds. ... Hayward Register played a season-low 6 minutes and went 0-for-2 from the floor. Register is shooting 14-for-56 (25.0 percent) from the field, including 8-for-39 (21 percent) from the 3-point line.