March. 14, 2017

After having the best non-conference record in 26 years at 10-4, the Cajuns lost the Sun Belt conference opener at Jonesboro by a score of 74-71 on New Year's Eve. Despite shooting only 40% from the floor and giving up 56% we managed to out rebound ASU by 10 to give ourselves a chance to tie the game with possession of the ball down three for the final shot. The team loaded the bus New Year's Day and headed to Little Rock for an ESPN game Monday night versus the defending SBC regular season and tournament champions. We got off to a great start offensively shooting 59% from the floor in the first half for a 44-22 lead. The second half was more of the same as we shot 57% for the game and limited Little Rock to 32%. Anytime you can shoot 10% points better than your opponent your team should be in position to win a game and 25% is almost a sure sign of victory.

After evening our record at 1-1 and playing one of our best games of the year, we had a bye before playing in-state rival ULM at the Cajundome on Saturday. In a game where both team shot less than 40% from the floor we managed to have an advantage at the free-throw line to secure a 69-60 victory.

Playing the second game of our three game homestand vs Georgia Southern, we played well in the 1st half in front of a great Cajundome crowd. We were leading in the middle of the 2nd half when the Eagles put it all together. Their guards – Tookie Brown and Ike Smith were the 1st and 2nd leading scorers in the SBC and played well as they scored a major upset in a 76-81 Win. Losing for the first time did not sit well with our team – especially the five freshmen. We were shell shocked and turned one loss into two. Georgia State came out strong offensively on the way to 53 first half points and a convincing 101-86 win.

After losing two consecutive games for the first time in two months, we had a strong performance in a 79-73 win at Texas State. It Marked our third win in four tries at Strahan Coliseum and ended our SBC record at 3-3.

After traveling to Arlington and practicing on Sunday night, we played our worst game of the year in a loss to UT Arlington. The game was close until late in the first half, but the SBC regular season champions were at their best on this night. Giving up 57% from the floor and making 33 % of your field goals is not a recipe for success in our game.

The offense was much improved at home, shooting 62% from the floor in an 88-80 win over Little Rock. Two days later we gave up 50% from the floor for the third time in a row and our offense was not up to the task shooting 43% in a loss to Arkansas State. The win was the first in 10 years for the red wolves at the Cajundome.

Headed back on the road to the state of Georgia, we lost Saturday afternoon to Georgia State by score of 85-82. After trailing at the half we mounted a big comeback to cut a double figure lead to 1 and had possession for the last shot. We executed a set play against man or zone and got the ball to Bryce on the block but the shot was unsuccessful and they made free throws for the final margin. Monday’s game at Georgia Southern was another close one that we lost 74-70 to the Eagles. We played much better defensively this time against Georgia Southern but were unable to make the place needed down the stretch. It was disappointing for Jay Wright to lose with such a fan base coming over from Effingham County high school.

After losing six of eight games we needed to get back to the friendly confines of the Cajundome and play better defense. The Troy game was a tough one as they were playing with confidence. Our defense failed us again as we gave up 54% from the floor and a season high 40 or 50 free throws to the Trojans. I was actually ejected early in the second half over a call and left the game.

We rebounded on Monday night vs South Alabama in a big way scoring an 87-61 victory over the Jaguars. We limited South to 34% from the floor and one of 15 from three-point range. It was a victory we needed to save our season.

Next up was a game at Monroe on Saturday afternoon. In a bizarre game where we did not play particularly well giving up 63% from the floor (a season high), we made a furious rally the last two minutes of the game to secure an 85-84 victory on Johnathan Stove‘s half-court shot at the buzzer. It was the play of the day on ESPN.

After a good week of practice, we headed for the Carolinas. First up was coastal Carolina where we played a tight game throughout and won by a score of 79-77. After spending the night at Myrtle Beach, we headed across the Carolinas and checked into our hotel at Boone Sunday night. The guys came out and led from wire to wire and secured a 77-62 victory over the mountaineers to make us 3-0 all time in Boone.

Riding a four game winning streak and playing with confidence we returned to the Cajundome to take on Texas state. In one of the most exciting games of the year, we rallied from eight points down with a couple minutes left to force overtime and win 94-84 behind Jay Wright’s incredible performance. Jay scored 14 points in the last two minutes of regulation and first two minutes of overtime. It was a four minute window our fans will never forget.

Riding the emotion of that game Jay Wright as our only senior played his final home game versus Texas Arlington with something to prove. The tables were reversed this time we shot 47% from the floor 45% from three and were able to hold the Mavericks to 46% from the floor and secured an exciting 83-81 victory over the Sun Belt conference regular season champion.

The Sun Belt conference tournament was next and we were coming in riding the confidence of a six game winning streak. We opened play against Little Rock and won 78-71 to advance to the quarterfinals Friday night against Georgia state. After falling behind in the first half against the Panthers, we were unable to mount a comeback this time and lost by a final score 86-76.

After having Jay Wright suffer a leg injury versus Little Rock in the opener of the Sunbelt tournament we decided to decline postseason play and focus on rest and getting our guys back in the classroom as soon as possible. The season ended with a seven game winning streak marking the third time in a row we had won seven consecutive conference games. We also finished the season with our first winning road record in 17 years and our best four year overall record in 32 years.
 



Dec. 27, 2016

The Ragin' Cajuns had a Merry Christmas and wish you and your family a Happy New Year in 2017! But before we ring in the New Year in Jonesboro, Arkansas for the Sun Belt conference opener vs. Arkansas State let's review the last couple of weeks.

We beat Loyola out of New Orleans by a score of 94-60 during the reading day of exam week. They came in 8-2 with a very impressive group. Frosh PJ Hardy provided a spark off the bench as he made 6 of 8 field goals including 4-5 from three point range. After two more days of finals, Louisiana Tech came to the Cajundome on Saturday night.

This is our oldest rivalry that was renewed just three years ago. As a coach you are always concerned playing during and after exams. Guys stay up late studying and competing in the classroom and can tired physically and mentally. You have to work in short practices around their exam schedules that usually start at 4:00. We passed our first half test against Tech as we jumped to a 26-6 lead to open the game.

The lead was 20 with just over 10 minutes left when Jacobi Boykins from Tech put on a three point show. The junior made 7-7 threes the last nine minutes to close the gap but we won our eighth straight game 91-83. And did I mention we are 3-1 vs. Tech since the series has continued?

Next up was a SEC opponent in Georgia. The Bulldogs were coming off a nine day exam break of their own but showed no rust as they jumped out to a 10-0 lead. After trailing by 17 first half points, we got it to two at 38-40 before losing by a score of 60-73. Georgia blocked 11 shots as we shot a season low 28.8% from the floor. Bryce Washington had two quick fouls in the first 1:24 but wound up with a career best 18 boards in 34 minutes.

We made it back to Lafayette determined to start another streak after a poor performance. After two good practices we headed for New Orleans Friday night for our Saturday afternoon game vs. UNO. We love playing at Lakefront Arena as it is the site of the SBC Tournament in March. There was plenty of RED in the arena as the Ragin' Cajun fans were out in force for a Cajun double header. Our football team was also in the Crescent City making another appearance in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl that evening. UNO brought a 4-4 record into the game with wins over Tulane by 15 and at Washington State by 16.

They had a senior lineup and are a former SBC rival of ours so we expected a great game. We jumped out to a 24-14 first half lead before leading at the break 34-31. The Privateers came out hot in the second half and went up by seven with 5:19 remaining. Trailing by three with 2:20 remaining, we closed the game on an 8-0 run to win 76-71. Our lone senior, Jay Wright, would not let us lose as he scored big basket after big basket down the stretch to finish with a game high 27.

The Pepperdine Waves were our next opponent on December 20 at the Cajundome. They also were coming off an extended lay off because of exams. This was a return game from our trip to Malibu while playing UCLA last season. We jumped out to a 41-26 halftime lead led again by the marksmanship of PJ Hardy. The freshman guard made 3-3 three pointers and finished 4-5 from distance as we won 90-64. We played a stellar second half shooting 65.6% from the floor and forcing 24 turnovers to our 10. The win capped a 7-0 home record and was our 23rd non-conference win in a row at home.

Proud of this team. They had a good semester in the classroom and on the court. Our 10-3 start is the best record in 26 years and our 3 road wins before Christmas is the most in 37 years. We also are ranked 16th in the College Insider Mid Major poll. Next up is a very strong SBC schedule as we play an unbalanced 18 game format. Our league was rated 12th in the RPI earlier and has several impressive out of conference wins. It should be an exciting regular season and tournament in the Sun Belt Conference.

Heading to Arkansas!
 

It’s game day. We play host to Loyola (New Orleans) tonight at the newly renovated Cajundome.

We head into tonight’s game, winners of six straight. Our modest win streak has enabled us to climb into the rankings for the first time this season. The Ragin’ Cajuns are currently No. 20 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. We are one of three Sun Belt teams in the Top 25, with UT Arlington at No. 7 and Arkansas State at No. 21. It’s going to be a highly competitive race in the Sun Belt this season, but we still have five non-league games before conference play begins.

We closed the doors at Blackham for the final time, with a win over Texas Southern. The Tigers came in fresh off wins over La Salle, Rice and James Madison. We opened the second half on a nice run and were able to pull away.

It was a great atmosphere in Blackham. Bo Lamar was in attendance as we paid tribute to the late-great Beryl Shipley. Many of his former players were on hand that night. They are affectionately known as “The Shipley Boys.” It’s a group that includes players from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Coach Shipley was the first coach to be inducted into the Hall of Fame here at Lafayette and I was very proud to have been on the committee, which made a presentation for his induction.

We were 3-0 this season in Blackham.

Four days after beating Texas Southern, we opened the doors to the revamped Cajundome. In front of over 4,900 we beat Nicholls State. We used a 16-2 run to open the second half and maintained a good lead over the final twenty minutes.

We had a short practice on Friday and then made the trip over to Lake Charles to face McNeese State. It’s only an hour away so in the past we have made the drive over on game day. This time we decided to stay in Lake Charles the night before the game. We had not won at McNeese State since 2004 and we hadn’t won in Burton Coliseum since 1999. It’s a big rivalry so we wanted to get back on the winning side of it.

They jumped out to an early lead and we trailed 18-8. That deficit grew to 30-16 with 6:29 remaining in the first half. We then went on a 28-1 run to go up 13 at halftime and we held a double-digit lead throughout the second half.

We were 31-for-36 from the free throw line and we out-rebounded McNeese 48-15. Bryce Washington had 15 rebounds himself. Johnathan Stove had a career-best 20 points. Jay Wright, who had recently set a career-high with 27 points, set a new mark with 28.

After the game the entire team went to the home of P.J. Hardy’s grandparents for quite the postgame meal. After the feast it was a very quiet ride back to campus!
 


Nov. 27, 2016

Turkey tastes a little better when you are coming off a win.

We head into the Thanksgiving break with three straight wins, after beginning the season with back to back losses. We faced a talented James Madison team, which was looking for its’ first win of the season. I knew we would need to play hard from the opening tip and that’s the message they I conveyed to the team.

We jumped out to an early advantage and held an eight-point lead at the half. I was pleased with our effort in the final 20 minutes, as we led by double digits for most of the second half. It’s always good to get a road win against a good opponent and we had to do it without Johnathan Stove who didn’t dress out. Jay Wright had a career-high 27 points and Frank Bartley had another big game with 28 points. Frank’s good start to the season hasn’t gone unnoticed, as he got some national attention early this week. CHECK THIS OUT

The win improved our record to 3-2 on the season.

We opened the season with a hard-fought 86-74 loss at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers were coming off the worst season in 121 years so we knew they would be anxious to the season started. Things did not go well for us early, as Johnathan and Bryce Washington both picked up two fouls in the first five minutes. In the closing minutes of the first half both players picked up their third fouls and Minnesota responded with a 13-2 run to take a 22-point lead at halftime.

I was really proud of our effort in the second half. We competed and climbed back into the game before losing by 12. Freshman Justin Miller had 20 points.

We had a quick turnaround. 48 hours after playing in Minnesota we were in Bozeman, MT to face Montana State. I had a chance to catch up with an old friend, Stu Starner. He was a former assistant coach at the University of Minnesota when they had Kevin McHale, Trent Tucker and Randy Breuer. Those were some really good teams. A few years later Stu was the head coach at Montana State. I’ve known him for many years so it was nice to visit him at practice and shoot-around. I wish the actual game was as much fun.

The contest with MSU was a game of runs and it went back forth more most of the second half. Johnathan scored, with just over a minute remaining to cut the deficit to one, and his layup with 28 seconds left gave us the lead. We expected MSU’s Tyler Hall to take the last shot and he did. Our defense forced a tough shot, but they got the rebound and won it at the line with two free throws.

We returned home to face a Panhandle State team, which was shorthanded. They were without their point guard and best big man. All thirteen of our players, who were dressed for the game, scored at least two baskets and nobody played more than 20 minutes. The 117-47 win was the largest margin of victory on school history. Ironically, a few days later we had the slimmest of margins against Delaware State.

The Hornets scored the first eight points of the game, but we fought back to take a six-point lead into the locker room. We led the entire second half, but Delaware State kept coming at us. They were 13-for-25 from three-point range and they missed just one free throw. We came away with a one-point win. Frank had 25 and Bryce finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks.

On Sunday we will host a very good Texas Southern team, which won on the road at La Salle earlier this season. It will be the final game played at the historic Blackham Coliseum. On December 1 we are back in the revamped Cajundome, which had 21 million dollars in renovations in the offseason.

From our entire team, we would like to wish you a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!


June  1, 2016

The 2015-16 season started off with lofty expectations for our basketball team. After finishing the 2014-15 season strong with seven consecutive wins, we were picked first by the Sun Belt coaches poll with four returning starters and preseason player of the year Shawn Long.

The early season schedule was difficult with six of the first nine games on the road. Included were early trips to Miami, Alabama, and ULM all before December 3. Shawn lived up to his preseason billing by averaging 24 points and 14 rebounds versus Miami, Alabama, and UCLA. We also played five of our first six conference tilts on the road including four straight from Arkansas to Georgia. The homecoming win for Jay Wright at Georgia Southern started a string of nine consecutive victories as we powered our way to second place in the conference through the middle of February.

Next up was a game for first place with Little Rock where we dropped a hard fought 68-64 game. It was our first loss in the Cajundome after 11 consecutive wins that broke a school record to start the season. We went to UTA and lost an 84-83 overtime game on a last second three pointer by the Mavericks. Afterwards we bussed to San Marcos to play Texas State and lost for the first time in three years to the Bobcats 61-57. Now in the middle of our second four game road trip of conference play, we needed all of Shawn Long's 29 points and 20 rebounds to defeat Troy 73-63.

We wrapped up our regular season with a March 5 senior day home win over Georgia Southern and headed into the conference tournament in New Orleans as the fourth seed. This seed marked the fifth time in six years we had received a first round bye in the conference tournament. After defeating South Alabama 90-68 in the quarterfinals, we lost a semi-final match up with Little Rock 72-65. This marked the second year in a row we had lost by single digits to the eventual Sun Belt tournament champion. Shawn Long made All-Tournament after scoring 34 and 25 points in the two contests. He also shot 6-8 from 3 point range.

We received an invitation to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and hosted a first round game versus a very good Texas A&M Corpus Christi team that had gone 25-7 and finished runner-up to SFA of the Southland conference. The guys came out and shot the ball extremely well propelling us to a 96-72 victory over a quality opponent.

Next up was a road trip to Greenville, South Carolina to play Furman a team that was undefeated at home winning their first 14 games and coming off a win over ULM. We got off to a quick start and were able to hang on for an 80-72 victory to reach the quarterfinals of the CIT for the second consecutive year.

Next we hosted the UC Irvine Anteaters of the Big West Conference coming in with a 26-9 record and four players 6'10" or taller, including 7'6 Mamadou N’Diaye and 7'2" Ioannis Dimakopoulos. After trailing by 16 in the first half we made a furious comeback to take a 66-65 lead with :23 left. Mike Best of UCI made a tough turn around jump shot to take the lead back with :04 remaining on the clock. We advanced the basketball to half-court and used our last time out. The ball was inbounded to Shawn long at the top the key who drove to the basket and the last shot of his career was off the mark as time expired. It was a disappointing end to our season but I was extremely proud of our comeback. We finished the season 13-3 in the Cajundome to make our three year record 38-8 before a major renovation begins in May.

Our team continued to have offensive success as we led the league in scoring for the fourth consecutive year at 79.6 PPG to finish ninth in the NCAA. Our group finished ninth in Division 1 in free throw attempts and 15th in free throws made. We also finished sixth nationally in offensive rebounds, seventh in total rebounds, and 13th in rebound margin. Definitely one of the top rebounding teams I have ever coached. And Shawn Long was the main difference…he shattered the SBC rebounding record as well as the Ragin’ Cajun mark. He finished the year 4th nationally in rebounds per game, 6th in total boards, and 8th on the offensive end. Without question Shawn was the best rebounder I have ever coached.

I am encouraged by the guys returning and also the newcomers to our team for next year. The Cajundome is completing a 22 million dollar renovation with a brand new interior featuring seating, lighting, and flooring that will give it a totally different look. It should be another exciting year of Ragin’ Cajun basketball next season!


March 13, 2015

A lot has happened since I last sat down to write a blog…

After a fast start to Sun Belt Conference play, we hit a few bumps in the road. At one point we had lost three straight and five of six. In some ways it was similar to what we went through last season. And, as we did in 2014, we finished the 2015 regular season strong. We were 8-2 in our final ten games and we take a six-game winning streak into the Sun Belt Tournament.

Overall we are 19-12 and 13-7 in league play and for the third straight season we led the Sun Belt in scoring, assists and rebounding margin. But none of that matters now. It’s all about winning three games in three days in New Orleans.

Georgia State won the regular season and is once again the No. 1 seed in the tournament. From top to bottom, the Sun Belt has been very strong this season. Five teams won ten or more conference games and every team finished in double-digits in overall wins. So it’s a credit to Coach Ron Hunter and his teams that they were able to win the league.

By virtue of our strong finish we are the No. 4 seed in the tournament and will face Texas State on Friday evening in the quarterfinals. The semifinals are Saturday and the Championship game with be played early Sunday afternoon. It should be a very competitive few days in New Orleans.



Jan. 15, 2015

Big game tonight for the Ragin’ Cajuns. We are on the road to take on Georgia Southern, which is off to a very good start. We haven’t played since our win over Georgia State last Thursday. Like that contest, this one will be a tough test for us as well.

Last Thursday evening, three of the five preseason first team All-Sun Belt selections were on the floor with Shawn Long and Georgia State’s backcourt duo of Ryan Harrow and R.J. Hunter. The Panthers were the unanimous preseason favorite to win the Sun Belt. The last time we faced them was in the SBC Tournament Championship game, when we came away with an 82-81 win in OT to capture the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

It was the best crowd of the season with 4,531 in attendance. Our fans continue to give us great support. We are doubling the next best home attendance average in the SBC. The Ragin' Cajun faithful made a big difference as they stayed with us and helped bring us back after we fell behind 9-0 and 31-14.

We went on a 26-9 run in last four minutes of the half to close to within one point. We took the lead early in the second half and then the game swung back and forth over the final twenty minutes. But with just 52 seconds remaining Devonta Walker made two free throws to put us ahead to stay.

All five starters finished in double figures. We were 31-of-38 from the free throw line and that was the difference.

It’s the first time in seven seasons that the Ragin’ Cajuns have started 4-0 in conference play. Overall it was our seventh win in eight games and ninth in our last eleven after starting the season 1-3. We are now 7-0 at home and have won 12 straight at the Cajundome dating back to last season.

Like a lot of teams, we have been at our best when we are at full strength. The lineup of Brian Williams, Devonta Walker, Shawn Long, Kasey Shepherd, and Jay Wright is 7-0 on the season.

As a team we are taking better care of the basketball, we are out-rebounding the opposition and shooting much better from the free throw line. Doing those three things well will get you a lot of wins and they have been a key to our recent success.

We will now put that 4-0 SBC record on the line against 3-1 Georgia Southern. The Eagles currently sit in second place. It’s the first game of a stretch that will see us play five games in ten days. After tonight’s game we return home for three games against South Alabama, Monroe and Arkansas State before traveling to Georgia State on Jan. 24. That game will be televised on ESPN3.
 

Jan. 7, 2015

We are off to a good start in 2015, as we head into the weekend with a 3-0 record in the Sun Belt. It’s nice to get off to a good start in conference, but we have a lot of work left to do. And that begins on Thursday evening against Georgia State at the Cajundome.

We learned a lot about our team through November and December. Despite some familiar faces, this team is much different from last season’s NCAA Tournament team. We opened the season with seven new players and three new starters so growing pains were inevitable.

In late November we had handed out rings to the players at the “Rebounders Club” dinner meeting. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears goes into winning a championship so it’s always great seeing guys pick up jewelry. That’s a great memory for everyone involved with the program. It was a tremendous evening.

We finished the month of November with a 2-3 record. Breakdowns on both ends of the floor led to three straight losses to Tulsa, Auburn and Milwaukee, but we closed out the month with a great defensive effort against Oral Roberts. We held ORU to 29 percent shooting from the field. That certainly made for a happy flight home and we gave the players three days off for Thanksgiving to spend time with their families.

After splitting the first two games of December we played host to Louisiana Tech. It’s oldest rivalry in our program’s history. Last season we led wire to wire in an 89-80 win. It was their first home loss in almost three years so we knew they would be coming into our place looking for payback.

We shot well from three-point range to overcome some early foul trouble and Shawn Long had a nice game with 24 points and 15 rebounds. He was among those who picked up some early fouls so he played only 24 minutes in the 94-86 win.

As most of you probably already know, Shawn was recognized in November being named to the Lou Henson award Preseason Watch List. That’s a great honor him. Last season Elfrid Payton was a Lou Henson All-American and he picked up the Lefty Driesell award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive player. Great recognition for our players.

After beat Louisiana Tech we posted two more wins before we stumbled at Northwestern State just before Christmas. Shawn played only 17 minutes due to foul trouble. He had only five points, but still managed to pull down 13 rebounds in limited minutes.

We closed out 2014 with a win over UALR in the Sun Belt Conference opener. We opened 2015 with a win in our conference home-opener against Troy and followed that up with a win on Monday at Appalachian State.

Four of our next five games are at home so we hope to see everyone come out to the Cajundome. I hope you all had a great Holiday and very Happy New Year.