Ex-MCHS star Shawn Long excels in ULL win
Shawn Long (Submitted Photo/Courtesy of University of Louisiana-Lafayette Athletics)
Former Morgan City High School standout Shawn Long scored 24 of his career-high 29 points in the second half and added 15 rebounds for his 20th career double-double to lead Louisiana-Lafayette to a 92-66 victory against McNeese State Tuesday night in the Cajundome.
The victory improves Louisiana to 2-0 for the first time since 2008-09, while McNeese State drops to 0-2.
“I thought we played pretty well tonight at times,” Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin said in a university release. “We opened up a nice lead in the first half and then let McNeese shoot themselves back into the game. When we built a lead up in the second half, we stayed aggressive and challenged every shot and didn’t let them back into the game.
“We’re getting comfortable as a team, and we have a lot of confidence right now,” Marlin said. “It’s a pretty good start when you have guys like Shawn and Elfrid (Payton) leading the way, and if Elridge (Moore) continues to play at the level he is, we quickly become a pretty talented unit.
“We watched the film last night from our game at McNeese last year and it is hard to describe how much we have changed,” Marlin added. “Shawn and Elfrid have both raised their game to different levels while we are more confident as a team. That all comes with playing together for the last year and growing together as a team.”
Long, who earlier Tuesday was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week, built on his outstanding opening performance.
After shooting just two-for-seven from the field in the first half, Long ignited in the final stanza, going nine-for-15 from the field with three treys to break his previous career high of 27 points set at North Texas last season.
Payton took the offensive lead in the first half, scoring 16 of his 22 points in the first half, most coming on drives to the basket. He was nine-for-14 from the field with four rebounds, two assists and five steals.
Moore scored in double figures for the second straight game, going six-for-nine from the field while setting career highs for points (16) and rebounds (9).
Adrian Fields led McNeese State with 19 points and seven rebounds while Ledrick Cackles added 15 points and seven rebounds and Kevin Hardy recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
After holding off a Cowboy surge at the end of the first half to lead 41-38 at the break, Louisiana-Lafayette scored eight of the first 10 points in the second half to lead 49-41 with 17:26 left.
The Cowboys would close to within 49-45 at the 16:13 mark before the Cajuns went on a 23-5 run to take control of the game, leading 72-50 at the 8:09 mark.
The key to the game came beyond the arc where McNeese State made seven of its 10 three-point attempts in the first half but managed just four-for-15 shooting in the second half. The Cajuns were just two-for-eight from three-point range in the first half, but with Long knocking down three second-half treys, improved to four-for-nine.
The Cajuns’ aggressive defense paid dividends as well, forcing 17 turnovers and allowing Louisiana-Lafayette to hold a decisive 22-4 lead in points off turnovers. The Cajuns had just 10 turnovers for the second straight game.
McNeese State never led in the game as the Cajuns ran off the first six points in the game, including a pair of baskets by Payton.
The game was close for the first eight minutes until the Cajuns used a 15-2 run to turn a 17-13 lead into a 32-15 advantage with 7:03 left in the half.
Kevin Brown scored the first five points during the spurt, hitting a three-pointer and a pair of free throws, while five other Cajuns contributed points.
But just when it looked like the Cajuns would run away with the game, the Cowboys warmed up from outside. Eackles connected on four treys as part of a 16-2 Cowboy run that pulled them to within 34-31 with 3:04 left in the half.
Four straight points by Payton pushed the Cajuns advantage to 40-33 with 1:58 left, but Adrian Fields buried his second trey of the half with 26 seconds left to trim the Louisiana-Lafayette lead to 41-38 at intermission.
Louisiana-Lafayette hits the road this week for the first time this season, starting a stretch that will have them play six of their next seven games on the road.
The Cajuns will meet Arkansas Friday at 7 p.m. before heading to Waco, Texas, to face Baylor Sunday at 2 p.m. in a game that will be televised regionally on Fox Sports Southwest.