The 2015-16 season started off with lofty expectations

  • 01 Jun, 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 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!