Louisiana-Lafayette loses big to No. 7 Louisville
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisiana-Lafayette seemed to be in a good place late in the first half against No. 7 Louisville, using good perimeter shooting and showing a fearlessness to build several small leads against the defending national champions.
Unfortunately for the Ragin' Cajuns, they couldn't get more than a basket ahead and their 41-39 edge disintegrated into a 54-47 halftime deficit that quickly got out of reach in the second half. Within 6 minutes they were down by 21 and the hole got deeper in an eventual 113-74 rout by the Cardinals on Saturday.
Louisville (8-1) has made good use of big runs known as 'the boom' to turn games around in recent years, and Saturday provided another example as its fast pace on both ends wore down the Ragin' Cajuns (6-3). After shooting 61 percent (19 of 31) in the first half including seven 3-pointers, they hit 7 of 31 and just 2 of 16 from long range in the second.
"I felt like we had a good scouting report and a good game plan in place for these guys," ULL coach Bob Martin said of the Cardinals. "We thought we could expose them in a couple of places and they ended up exposing us a lot more at the end of the day."
Shawn Long's 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting led four Ragin' Cajuns in double figures. Kasey Shepherd added 18 points, Elfrid Payton 12 and Steven Wronkoski 10 for ULL, which was outscored 60-34 in the paint in falling to 0-9 against Louisville.
The Ragin' Cajuns entered with a four-game winning streak after Wednesday's 89-80 win at Louisiana Tech, and scored 105 points against Northwestern State in the preceding contest, performances suggesting that they could keep pace with the Cardinals. Louisville coach Rick Pitino was certainly concerned about them, hinting that they could make things interesting for his team that's still trying to shape its defense.
Indeed, ULL created some anxiety for Louisville after rallying from an 18-9 deficit with a 23-14 run including five 3-pointers to tie the score at 32.
The Ragin' Cajuns appeared to be rhythm in many ways and their perimeter shooting opened up other areas. More encouraging was the fact they seemed unfazed by any of Louisville's defensive looks in leading four times after that.
J.J. Davenport, ULL's 6-foot-6, 325-pound reserve center, pushed his weight around to contribute a couple of layups during the run. Shepherd added five points including a 3-pointer while Long put the finishing touches on a 16-point half with his second from long range.
The Ragin' Cajuns' play got Louisville's attention and the Cardinals went ahead for good with a 13-6 run for the halftime lead that steadily grew bigger as their athleticism took over.
"At the end of the first half, we felt that we should have maintained the lead or (be) right there, tied at the half," Martin said. "Obviously, we shot the ball well in the first half; the second half we did not shoot the ball well. ... And they (the Cardinals) played outstanding."
Montrezl Harrell scored 20 points to lead six Cardinals in double figures as Chris Jones added 19 points, Russ Smith 16, Wayne Blackshear 15, Terry Rozier 11 and Luke Hancock 10.
Louisville shot 38 of 62 from the field (61 percent) and scored 32 points off 17 turnovers while outrebounding ULL 41-29.
"Our goal tonight because we weren't playing very good defense," Pitino said, "was just to try and fatigue them so they would shoot a lower percentage and I think the guys did a good job of that. Keep the pace up, keep it going, take advantage of their foul trouble and pick-and-roll them to death."
Bad as it turned out against Louisville, Martin believes his team can benefit by the time Sun Belt Conference play begins. The Ragin' Cajuns are already off to one of their better starts and began well against the Cardinals but weren't able to finish.
That's something Martin promised to change.
"We can get back to the drawing board on defense," he said. "We can build on it and certainly go back and learn from things they exposed us on and get ready for conference play."