LAFAYETTE — The Sun Belt Conference’s last-place team ran into the league’s hottest team Saturday night, and the results were predictable.
Louisiana-Lafayette shot nearly 60 percent, scored 50 points in the paint and had 13 players contribute to the scoring effort in an 88-65 romp over Troy in the Cajundome.
It was their fourth straight win, all of which have come by at least nine points, and the Cajuns (9-8, 5-3) moved above .500 for the first time since they won their season opener.
The Cajuns took complete control early, and it wasn’t the usual suspects doing the damage.
Shawn Long and Kasey Shepherd, who came into the game averaging a combined 31 points against league opponents, took a combined three shots while the Cajuns built an 18-point halftime lead.
“Coach (Bob) Marlin always says, any game a different guy can drive the bus,” sophomore forward Bryce Washington said.
On Saturday it was Washington, Jay Wright and Jay Hedgeman in the driver’s seat. A group that had combined for an 18.6 points-per-game average against SBC teams coming into Saturday’s game scored 30 points in the first half, nearly matching the Trojans’ 31-point output.
Washington started things off, often serving as the beneficiary of double teams on Long. He scored eight of the team’s first 12 points and finished with 13 of his 16 points in the first half.
“That’s Batman; I’m Robin,” Washington said. “When they double-team him, I try to cut and make a finish.”
Wright knocked down three of his four field-goal attempts in the first half and also dished out four assists. He also started the crucial stretch of the game where the Cajuns took over.
He converted a three-point play on a driving layup to give the Cajuns a 19-18 lead, and that began a 26-6 run that turned a close game into a blowout.
“Jay Wright was locked in the whole game,” Marlin said.
Hedgeman was the closer. He didn’t check into the game until the 4:19 mark of the first half, but he made the most of his limited time.
The first of his 10 first-half points came when Wright found him open in the corner for a 3-pointer, which he made with 3:33 remaining to give the Cajuns a 39-24 lead.
He went on a binge in the final 80 seconds of the half. He converted a three-point play on a driving layup, slammed home a dunk after some nice ball movement by the Cajuns and knifed through the lane for another layup, scoring the Cajuns’ final seven points of the half.
“I was just trying to match the same energy that my guys had,” Hedgeman said. “You had to come out with a punch.”
That trio finished the first 20 minutes by sinking 13 of 15 shots, one more than the 12 field goals Troy (6-13, 1-7) combined to make. The rest of their Cajuns teammates weren’t far behind.
The Cajuns shot 71.4 percent from the floor as a team in the first half. They routinely exploited the Trojans defense in the lane, scoring 20 of their first 25 points in the paint.
When the second half rolled around, Long resumed his role as the Cajuns’ dominant force. He scored 15 of his game-high 20 points and snared eight of his 14 rebounds in the final period, and the Trojans never got closer than 13 points.
Long achieved a personal milestone when he made a bucket early in the first half. He became the sixth player in Cajuns and Sun Belt history to score 2,000 points — and the first in team and conference history to tally 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career.
The Cajuns will gun for their fifth consecutive win Thursday against Texas State in the Cajundome. The Bobcats beat Arkansas State 78-68 on Saturday night to improve to 9-7 overall and 3-4 in SBC play.