LAKE CHARLES — One year ago, Shawn Long was on an early-season roll and McNeese State was the unwitting victim.
Long put up 29 points to go with 15 rebounds, five blocks and three 3-point baskets in Louisiana-Lafayette’s 92-66 win over the Cowboys. That was the second part of a 54-point, 29-rebound, nine-block performance in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ first two games of 2013-14.
UL-Lafayette coach Bob Marlin would love to see a similar performance Saturday when the Cajuns (3-3) travel to face the nearby-rival Cowboys in a 7 p.m. contest at Burton Coliseum.
Long would love to oblige. More than anything, though, the junior from Morgan City would like to be pain-free for the Cajuns’ first of five games in a two-week period.
Long, who led the nation’s active players in double-double performances (36) entering the season, hasn’t had one of those this season while battling tendinitis and a nagging bone bruise in his foot. He missed two games before playing 28 minutes Wednesday in an easy 76-53 home win over Jackson State.
“We knew he wouldn’t be back at 100 percent,” Marlin said. “But to get him back out there was important for us. He ran the floor at times and was active protecting the rim, but he also got frustrated a couple times.”
Long had nine points and nine rebounds, most of that in the first half when the Cajuns built a 35-27 lead which they padded throughout the second half. He also had four first-half blocked shots and a pair of assists.
“He’s been moving around great in practice,” said senior transfer Brian Williams of Long. “I think it’s going to happen for him pretty quickly.”
With postman J. J. Davenport also out with what Marlin described as a “really bad ankle sprain,” UL-Lafayette has turned to its front-line newcomers in a big way. Juco transfer Devonta Walker had 19 points and eight boards against JSU while Williams had 15 points. New Orleans freshman Bryce Washington, who started both of the previous two games in Long’s absence, had seven points in 21 minutes.
Williams, a product of Glen Oaks High School, leads the team in scoring (12.7) and rebounding (6.0) entering Saturday’s game. He has scored in double figures in four straight games and in five of UL-Lafayette’s six outings this year.
“It’s a good thing we’re deeper on the front line,” Marlin said.
The Cajuns will also likely have senior starting guard Xavian Rimmer back for Saturday’s 90th-ever meeting with McNeese. Rimmer, who made last March’s All-Sun Belt Tournament team, sprained a knee in practice Monday and missed the JSU game.
“His stats aren’t great, he hasn’t shot the ball well,” Marlin said of Rimmer, who is averaging only 6.2 points per game after averaging double figures in the last half of last season. “Some of that is he’s been the key focal point of the other teams as a shooter. He will get that up.”
The Cajuns had a season-low 15 turnovers in Wednesday’s win, and keeping that number low could be a factor against a Cowboy team that ranks in the nation’s top 40 in fewest turnovers per game. The Cowboys (3-2) also rank fifth nationally in blocked shots (7.6).
McNeese improved to 3-0 in Burton Coliseum Wednesday with a 74-63 win over Southern-New Orleans. Desharick Guidry had his fourth straight double-double with 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds while Kevin Hardy added 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting, a non-surprising percentage since eight of his nine baskets were dunks.