Posted: Nov 17, 2012 11:30 PM by UL Sports Information
SETTING THE SCENE: Louisiana continues a stretch that sees them play four of its next five games on the road and in four different states when the Ragin' Cajuns travel to Boise, Idaho to face Boise State on Sunday, Nov. 18 beginning at 1:00 p.m. MST (2:00 p.m. in Lafayette) in BSU's Taco Bell Arena. The Cajuns dropped to 1-1 on the year when Louisiana dropped a 74-71 decision in overtime at Texas Southern on Friday (Nov. 18). After the Boise State game, the Cajuns return home to host Southern of New Orleans on Wednesday (Nov. 21) at 7:00 p.m. in the Cajundome. The road swing concludes with games at New Mexico State on Friday (Nov. 23) and No. 21 Michigan State on Sunday (Nov. 25). Boise State opened the season with a pair of home games last week, defeating Texas Southern on Nov. 1 (81-63) and Oakland on Tuesday (88-80).
PREVIEWING LOUISIANA: With a lineup featuring six freshmen and four sophomores, third year head coach Bob Marlin is excited about the possibilities for the 2012-13 season, knowing that the team that takes the court in November will grow and improve all season. As the new faces get acclimated to the collegiate game, the Cajuns will lean heavily on junior Bryant Mbamalu (16.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.5 apg) and sophomore sensation Elfrid Payton (14.5, 5.5, 6.0). Guard Alan-Michael Thompson (4.5 ppg), the lone senior on the squad, should also play an increased role this year. Freshman forward Shawn Long (17.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg), a transfer from Mississippi State, and power forward Elridge Moore (7.5, 5.5, 2.5 steals), a JC transfer from Lamar State, will unite to form the nucleus of the inside game with freshmen Matthew Moss (1.0, 1.0), Cornell Barnett and walk-on Braylan Lazare (3.0, 2.0) providing the depth inside. Although Payton, Mbamalu and Thompson will provide the athleticism, quickness and leadership, the trio of Tulane transfer Kevin Brown (7.5 ppg) and freshmen Kasey Shepherd (4.5) and Steven Wronkoski (4.5) will also contribute, giving Louisiana one of the deepest backcourts in the Sun Belt. Marlin wants to utilize the depth and quickness by forcing an up-tempo game at both ends of the court by applying more defensive pressure. Look for the Cajuns to use their quickness and outside shooting ability to create a balanced offense, forcing opponents to cover the entire court.
CAJUNS ADD TWO FOR 2013-14: Hours before the Cajuns tipped off with Texas Southern on Friday, head coach Bob Marlin announced the signing of high school standouts Kimani Jackson (Arlington, TX/Seguin) and Hayward Register (Lafayette, La./Comeaux) to National Letters of Intent to attend Louisiana and play basketball starting next fall. Jackson, a 6-7, 220-pound forward, was a pre-season all-league selection this year. Ranked as the No. 88 player in the State of Texas by TexasHoops.com, he is averaging 11 points, nine rebounds, three assists and 1.8 blocks this season at Arlington's Seguin High. Register, a 6-2, 170-pound shooting guard, earned second team all-state honors a year ago after averaging 20.1 points and 5.6 rebounds a game, helping Comeaux High to a 23-11 record. He was named the 2011-12 All-Acadiana MVP by the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. "This is a very good start to our recruiting effort for the year. They both should fit into our system well" Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin said.
SECOND HALF, OUR HALF: Playing off a slogan used by the Cajun football team, the Louisiana men's basketball squad has definitely dominated the second half in the two games this year, out-scoring its opponents 99-73 this season. The Cajuns used a 53-37 advantage in the second half to rally from a five-point halftime deficit against Oakland and then out-scored Texas Southern 46-36 in the second half to come back and force overtime.
OVERTIME: The loss to Texs Southern marked the ninth time that the Cajuns have played to overtime under head coach Bob Marlin. Louisiana is now 6-3 in overtime games during that span, including a 4-1 record last season.
PAYTON FINDS THE RANGE: One statistic that stood out on an otherwise glowing report card for Elfrid Payton in 2011-12 was three-point shooting. Payton missed all eight three-point attempts during the year, finishing the year with just one attempt in the last 11 games. Payton has put an end to that streak this year, making a three-pointer in each of the first two games (2-for-6 overall).
. . . AND PAYTON WASN'T THE ONLY ONE TO STRUGGLE: A quick check of the freshman statistics for Bryant Mbamalu will show that the talented guard, like Payton did a year ago, struggled from long range, going just 1-for-14 from three-point (.071). Mbamalu improved significantly to 19-for-49 (.388) last year and has made three treys in the first two games this year (.300).
. . . BUT NO STRUGGLES FOR BROWN: Sophomore Kevin Brown earned his first career start at Texas Southern, scoring nine points with four rebounds. The Tulane transfer has excelled from long range, making four of his eight three-point attempts (.500).
NO LUCK ON THE ROAD: The overtime loss at Texas Southern on Friday extended the Louisiana streak of consecutive losses in true road games to 14, including 13 under head coach Bob Marlin. The Cajuns have won road games over that span, including an 83-66 win over Northern Arizona in last season's opener, but that came in San Francisco on a neutral floor. Louisiana's last true non-conference road win was a 68-60 win on Dec. 19, 2009 at Lamar.
FILLING THE DOME: Like most sports at Louisiana, the Cajuns have a rabid basketball following that has translated into strong attendance numbers. In 2010-11, the Ragin' Cajuns led the Sun Belt Conference by averaging 4,700 fans a game. Last year, UL was third with a 3,566 average. Strong attendance figures are nothing new for the Cajuns. In 27 years playing in the Cajundome, Louisiana has averaged 4,671 fans for the 380 games played.
. . . AND STRONG ATTENDANCE ABOUNDS: Basketball isn't the only sport that annually hosts large crowds. In both softball and baseball, Louisiana has led the Sun Belt Conference in attendance every year since 2000, while the football squad is currently second in average attendance (24,136). In softball last year, UL set school and league records for overall (29,171) and average attendance (1,287). In postseason play, softball led the 16 NCAA Regionals in total (14,097) and averaged attendance (2,350).
A NEW LOOK: Not only do the Cajuns have a new look on their bench this year, but they have a new look on the floor as well. . . literally. This fall, the court in the Cajundome was resurfaced, changing the outline color from red to black. The new design features "Louisiana" written along both sidelines, a fleur-de-lis in the lane next to both foul lines. The center court design utilizes the split level Ragin' Cajuns logo.
SUN BELT CONFERENCE TO TELEVISE WKU GAME: Both games of the Feb. 23 doubleheader against Western Kentucky have been selected for the Sun Belt Conference Game of the Week package. The women will face the Hilltoppers at 5:00 p.m. followed by the men's game at 7:30 p.m.
MAKING THE GRADE: One thing that head coach Bob Marlin has emphasized in his three seasons at Louisiana is the necessity that his players give 100% both on and off the court. This demand has led to positive results in the classroom. During the spring 2012 semester, the Ragin' Cajuns recorded their third straight semester with a team GPA of better than 2.50, a feat accomplished just one other time since 1982. The last three semesters account for three of the top six terms for the basketball team during that time. In the two semesters last year, seven Cajuns posted a 3.0 GPA or better.
MISTER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME?: Elfrid Payton showed his continued development as the Cajuns' point guard by handing out eight assists in the season opener, one short of his career high of nine set against North Texas in the Sun Belt Championship last year. Bryant Mbamalu shattered his career high in the game, handing out five assists to surpass his old high of three accomplished three times in 2011-12.
. . . AND PAYTON FLIRTS WITH A TRIPLE-DOUBLE: Sophomore guard Elfrid Payton has come into his own as a playmaker, showing the all-around skills to be capable of recording the first triple-double by a Cajun since the 2005-06 season. In the Sun Belt Championship opening round game against North Texas last year, Payton scored 13 points with eight rebounds and nine assists. In the season opener against Oakland, Payton had four points, five rebounds and five assists at halftime, finishing with 14 points with five rebounds and eight assists.
IT WAS A LONG TIME COMING: The exhibition win over Loyola-New Orleans marked the Cajuns debut for forward Shawn Long. Long transferred to Louisiana last December after spending the fall semester at Mississippi State. The 6-9 native of Morgan City, La. practiced with the Cajuns during the final three months of the year but was not eligible to play. During the summer, he was granted a waiver of transfer rule that would have made him ineligible until early December, allowing him to play immediately. Eager to make up for the lost season, Long scored 11 of UL's first 18 points against Loyola, finishing the night with 17 points and a game-high eight rebounds, going seven-for-11 from the field with a pair of blocks. Long came back against Oakland to score 14 points with a game-high six rebounds.
. . . AND LONG HASN'T SLOWED: Shawn Long's steady play has allowed the freshman to lead the Cajuns in scoring (17.0 ppg), rebounding (9.5 rpg) and blocks (2.0 bpg). He posted his first career double-double against Texas Southern on Friday, scoring 20 points with 13 rebounds.
TURNING TO THE BENCH: Another key to the win over Oakland was the performance of the Cajuns bench. With four of the five starters scoring in double figures, the bench came through as freshmen Steven Wronkoski (9 points) and Kasey Shepherd (7) and transfers Kevin Brown (6) and Braylon Lazare (4) helped Louisiana own a 28-3 lead in bench points. The bench was not as productive in the loss at Texas Southern totalling just nine points.
MORE MOORE: Junior forward Elridge Moore made his Cajuns debut a memorable one against Oakland on Nov. 10, sharing the team scoring lead with 15 points while adding five rebounds, five steals and a pair of blocks. Moore, who played one season at Nicholls State before transferring to Lamar State last season, missed just two shots in the game, going six-for-seven from the field and three-for-four from the line. A 6-5 forward from New Orleans, Moore started at forward.
TURNING UP THE TEMPERATURE: Bob Marlin said all pre-season that the Cajuns would take advantage of the quickness that the squad has this year by applying more pressure. The initial returns have been good as Louisiana forced 31 turnovers in the first two games, turning those miscues into a 34-19 advantage in points off turnovers. The 12 steals in the opener against Oakland marked the most by the Cajuns since recording 15 last year in the win over Dillard. Going back even further, UL has had more than 12 steals only twice in the last seven seasons.
IT WAS RAINING THREES: Head coach Bob Marlin said throughout the preseason that the three-point shot would play a more important role in the Cajuns offensive game plan this year. That was certainly the case against Loyola-New Orleans as UL made 16 of its 31 three-point attempts (.516) en route to a 20-point win. The total, had it occurred in a regular season game, and not an exhibition, would have broken the school record of 15 three-point field goals in a game set against Troy (1/10/09), Western Kentucky (3/2/96) and Ohio State (12/1/96). Even more impressive was the Cajuns did most of the damage in the first half, going 14-for-18 from beyond the stripe (.778) with seven different players knocking down treys in the game.
SHIPLEY BUST DEDICATED: A bust honoring legendary Ragin' Cajuns basketball coach Beryl Shipley was dedicated prior to the season opener Oakland on Nov. 10. The bust, which is located just inside the main entrance of the Cajundome, honors a coach who compiled a 293-126 record (.699) in 16 seasons from 1958-73, setting records for most victories and career winning percentage. His teams won 20 or more games seven times. In 1970, Shipley guided the Cajuns as they moved to the NCAA Division I competition level, winning 71 games in the next three seasons.
SOTO AWAITS DECISION: Freshman guard Josh Soto is out indefinitely as he awaits a ruling from the NCAA on whether a course he took as a freshman in San Juan, Puerto Rico allow him to meet the NCAA initial eligibility guidelines. The NCAA has already approved a waiver allowing him to be on scholarship and practice with the team. No time table on a decision regarding his eligibility is available.
RAGIN' CAJUNS CELEBRATE 100TH SEASON: The Cajuns are celebrating the 100th season of basketball during the 2012-13 season. The first season was in 1911-12 when the Cajuns posted a 4-1 record. Louisiana has gone on to win 20 or more games 21 times since, entering the year with a 1,296-984 overall record. Louisiana did not have a team in either 1973-74 or 1974-75 because of NCAA sanctions. In the first 99 seasons, the Cajuns have advanced to postseason play 18 times, including 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, winning 16 conference titles. Eight UL players have earned All-America honors with 94 being named all-conference.