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Men’s Basketball: Cajuns Play Two Games at EA Sports Maui On The Mainland – Grider & Flake Honored

Games 5-6
EA Sports Maui on the Mainland
Louisiana (2-2) vs. Oakland (0-4)
Date: Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013
Time: 6:30 p.m. EST (5:30 p.m. in Lafayette)
Site: The HTC Center (3,212), Conway, S.C.
Radio: KPEL (1420 AM) & KHXT (107.9 FM) (Jay Walker)
TV: None
Series: Louisiana leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: Louisiana 90, Oakland 79 (11/11/12, Lafayette, La.)

Other Tournament Games
Saturday, Nov. 23
St. Francis Brooklyn (1-2) at Coastal Carolina (1-2), 4:00 p.m. EST

Sunday, Nov. 24
Losers Of Friday Games, 12:30 p.m. EST
Winners of Friday Games, 2:30 p.m. EST

LOUISIANA
BOB MARLIN (Mississippi State ‘81)
At Louisiana:  45-52 (4th year)
4-Year Overall:  270-183 (16th year)
All Collegiate:  393-218 (21st year)
vs. Oakland:  1-0

SETTING THE SCENE:  The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns continue play in the EA Sports Maui Invitational with two games this weekend in the mainland portion of the tourney.  The Cajuns will travel to Conway, S.C. to face Oakland on Saturday, Nov. 23 beginning at 6:30 p.m. EST (5:30 p.m. in Lafayette) in the HTC Center.  St. Francis Brooklyn will play host Coastal Carolina in the other game at 4:00 p.m. EST.  The two losing teams will play at 12:30 p.m. EST on Sunday (Nov. 24) with the two winners playing at 2:30 p.m. EST).  Louisiana is 2-2 on the year after dropping back-to-back road games at Arkansas (76-63) on Friday and at No. 23 Baylor (87-68) on Sunday, a pair of games that were closer than the final score indicated.  Oakland, who the Cajuns defeated 90-79 in the 2012-13 season opener, is 0-4 on the year.

PREVIEWING LOUISIANA:  Louisiana is off to a 2-2 start in 2013-14, benefiting from the return of all five starters and a total of 10 lettermen from last year’s squad that went 13-20, leading fourth-year head coach Bob Marlin to feel confident that the Cajuns are on a path to return to national prominence.  The team is centered around the duo of point guard Elfrid Payton (22.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.3 apg, 3.0 spg) and forward Shawn Long (20.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg), both of whom were named to the preseason All-Sun Belt first team this year.  Long makes the move from center to power forward, his natural position, with newcomers J.J. Davenport (3.3, 3.8), a junior who played the last two seasons at New Mexico Junior College, and freshman Vieux Kande (0.8, 1.3), expected to see the majority of minutes at center.  Elridge Moore (10.3, 5.3), who started as an undersized power forward last season, will move to small forward, with Steven Wronkoski (4.5, 3.3) starting on the wing.  Bryant Mbamalu (13.8, 3.7 in 2012-13), who started 26 games as a wing guard last season, is out indefinitely with a foot injury in September.  With Mbamalu out, junior Kevin Brown (6.3, 1.3), who is returning after missing most of last season with a broken foot, is expected to take over.  Sophomore guard Kasey Shephard (3.3, 1.3) sees time off the bench this year with a trio of newcomers, junior Xavian Rimmer (1.8, 1.8 apg), and freshmen Hayward Register (3.8 ppg) and Luka Kamber (0.5 ppg) vying for time.  Marlin will utilize the depth and quickness by forcing an up-tempo game at both ends of the court by applying more defensive pressure.  The Cajuns use their quickness and outside shooting ability to create a balanced offense, forcing opponents to cover the entire court.

RAGIN’ CAJUNS START THE NEXT 100 SEASONS:  The Ragin’ Cajuns have begun their 101st season of basketball.  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 Baylor game with a 1,311-1,006 overall record.  Louisiana did not have a team in either 1973-74 or 1974-75 because of NCAA sanctions.  In the first 100 seasons, the Cajuns have advanced to postseason play 18 times, including 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, winning 16 conference titles.  Eight Louisiana players have earned All-America honors with 96 being named all-conference.

PAYTON NAMED TO WOODEN AWARD PRESEASON TOP 50:  Cajuns junior point guard Elfrid Payton earned a big preseason honor on Nov. 12 when he was named to the 2013-14 John R. Wooden Award preseason top 50 list by the Los Angeles Athletic Club.  Named after the legendary UCLA head coach, the Wooden Award is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball.  It is bestowed upon the nation’s best player at an institution of higher education who has proven to his or her university that he or she is making progress toward graduation. 

. . . AND MORE HONORS FOR PAYTON:  Being selected to the Wooden Award list is the latest in a long list of preseason awards for Elfrid Payton.  Earlier in the fall, Payton was named to the preseason watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, which is presented to the nation’s top point guard by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.  In addition, Payton was named to the Mid-Major All-America first team by NBCSports.com and to the Lou Henson All-America team, which honors the nation’s top mid-major players and is presented by CollegeInsider.com.

PAYTON NEARS 1,000 POINT MARK:  With 20 or more points in each of the first four games, junior guard Elfrid Payton is quickly closing in on the 1,000 point mark for his career.  Payton enters the week with 843 points, needing 157 more to become the 40th player in school history to reach that plateau.

. . . AND LONG & MBAMALU ARE WITHIN REACH AS WELL:  Elfrid Payton isn’t the only Cajun closing in on the 1,000 point mark as senior Bryant Mbamalu (794) and sophomore Shawn Long (591) could each surpass the total this year.  Mbamalu’s quest for 1,000 will have to wait until he returns from a foot injury, but when he does, he will have just 206 points to go.  Long scored 511 points last year and will need to equal his 15.5 points per game from last year to accomplish the feat.   

PAYTON OPENS SEASON WTTH HOT HAND:  Elfrid Payton has started his junior campaign off on the right foot, scoring 20 points or more in each of the first four games.  Payton had 21 points in the opener vs. Louisiana College, 22 vs. McNeese State, 27 at Arkansas and 20 at Baylor.  He leads the team and ranks fourth in the Sun Belt averaging 22.5 points a game.  Payton is the first Cajuns player since Michael Allen scored 20 points or more in 12 straight games early in the 1993-94 season.

MOORE REMAINS PERFECT FROM THE STRIPE:  Senior Elridge Moore remains on top of the Sun Belt free throw percentage list, making all 11 of his free throws in the first four games.  That is quite an improvement for Moore, who converted 37-of-63 free throws (.587) in 2012-13.

. . . AND PAYTON IS UP AS WELL:  Elfrid Payton has started his season out right from the foul line, making 27 of his 38 attempts (.711).  Payton shot just .564 (75-134) as a freshman but came back to go 134-for-209 (.641) last year.  He started the 2013-14 season off right, going seven-for-seven from the stripe vs. Louisiana College and was seven-for-eight at Baylor on Sunday.  The improvement is not a surprise as Payton shot .719 (41-57) during his three summer tours, including .900 (9-10) at the FIBA World Championship.

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-percent both on and off the court.  This demand has led to positive results in the classroom.  During the spring 2013 semester, the Ragin’ Cajuns set a program record with a 2.904 grade point average for the team.  It was the fifth time in six semesters that the team had a GPA of better than 2.50, which had never been done before.  The last five semesters account for four of the top seven terms for the basketball team during that time.

LONG STARTS YEAR ON A ROLL:  Sophomore Shawn Long picked right up where he left off last spring, registering double-doubles in each of the first two games.  He enters the Oakland game leading the Sun Belt in rebounding (11.3) and ranked second in blocks (3.0) and fifth in scoring (21.3).  He earned Sun Belt Player of the Week honors after scoring 23 points with 14 rebounds in the season-opening win over Louisiana College and then came back on Tuesday night to score a career-high 29 points with 15 rebounds and a career-high tying five blocks against McNeese State.

LONG RECORDS A QUICK DOUBLE-DOUBLE:  After ranking sixth nationally last year with 18 double-doubles, sophomore Shawn Long didn’t wait too long to get his first double-double of 2013-14, scoring 23 points with 14 rebounds in the season-opening win over Louisiana College.  Long only needed 18:07 to accomplish his 19th double-double, grabbing his 10th rebound of the night (to go with 14 points at the time) as part of an 18-point, 11-rebound effort in the first half.  It marked the first time that Long had reached double-double totals by intermission.

. . . AND PAYTON ADDS HIS FOURTH:  Elfrid Payton also registered a double-double in the season opener, scoring 21 points with a career-high matching 10 assists for his fourth career double-double (and second point-assists double-double).  Payton had them in back-to-back games at McNeese State (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Lamar (17/11) last year and came back to miss a triple-double by one rebound at FIU, scoring 13 points with nine rebounds and 10 assists.

PAYTON IS BACK ON TOP:  It only took Elfrid Payton four games to move back on top of the Sun Belt leader board in both assists and steals, two categories that he led in 2012-13.  In four games, Payton has handed out 21 assists (5.3 apg) and made 12 steals (3.0).

. . . AND IS ON PACE FOR ANOTHER 15, 5, 5 & 2:  Elfrid Payton was the only player in Division I last year to average 15 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals a game last year and he has done it again through four games this season.  Payton enters the week averaging 22.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 3.0 steals a game.  Last year,  he averaged 15.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.5 steals.

SIX GAMES TO BE TELEVISED:  The Ragin’ Cajuns will garner a little more attention nationally this year as six games will be televised during the regular season.  Tuesday’s (Nov. 12) McNeese State game was televised throughout Louisiana by the Ragin’ Cajuns Network.  The Sun Belt Network will pick up home games vs. Texas State (Jan. 13) and South Alabama (March 2) and the road meeting with Georgia State (Feb. 22).  The Nov. 17 contest at Baylor was featured on Fox Sports Southwest while the Dec. 7 game at defending national champion Louisville will be shown on ESPN3.  In addition, the home games vs. WKU (Jan. 25) and Arkansas State (Feb. 15) could both be picked up by one of the ESPN channels.

MOORE LIKES OPENERS:  Elridge Moore must love season openers.  After all, the senior forward had scored in double figures just four times in his first season with the Cajuns.  Last November, Moore went six-for-seven from the floor en route to setting career highs for points (15) and steals (5) in the season-opening win over Oakland.  In the 2013-14 opener vs. Louisiana College, Moore scored seven of his 11 points in the second half, going four-for-five from the field and  making all three free throws.  Last year, Moore went on to average 4.8 points and 3.7 rebounds a game, finishing second on the team with 33 steals and 51 assists and third with 17 blocks.

MOORE SETS CAREER HIGHS:  Elridge Moore’s confidence on the court was evident in the win over McNeese State on Nov. 13 when the senior set career highs for points (16) and rebounds (9), going 6-for-9 from the floor and making all four free throws.  He added 10 points and eight rebounds at Arkansas, his third double-figure scoring effort of the year.  In four games, Moore is averaging 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game, shooting .536 from the field (15-for-28) and a perfect 11-for-11 from the line.

HOW ELFRID SPENT HIS SUMMER:  Elfrid Payton had quite a summer, traveling more than 40,000 miles to play 20 basketball games in three different countries as part of three different teams.  The journey started with an eight-game, 18-day (May 11-28) tour of the Far East and China with Reach USA, during which he averaged 21.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 3.0 steals a game in helping Reach USA to a 4-2-1 record.  After returning to the states, Payton headed to Colorado Springs, Colo. where he not only earned a spot on the USA Basketball U19 team for the FIBA World Championship (June 26-July 7) in Prague, Czech Republic, but a starting spot as well.  Payton helped lead Team USA to a 9-0 record and the gold medal.  One month later, Payton travelled with his Cajuns teammates to Spain, winning all four games during a goodwill tour.

. . . ALL BECAUSE OF A PASSPORT & DERON WILLIAMS SAYING NO:  Elfrid Payton’s emergence over the summer all happened because he was both denied admission to the Deron Williams Skills Academy and went on a goodwill tour to China.  With Payton playing in China and the Cajuns coaching staff trying in vane to get him an invite to the Williams camp, the coaches changed the focus to Team USA, which was interested in Louisiana’s  rising junior.  When Bob Marlin spoke with Team USA head coach Billy Donovan,  Donovan noted that the Payton could only attend the tryout if he already had a passport, which he had obtained in the weeks before leaving for China.  Payton and his passport traveled to Colorado Springs for the tryout camp and the rest is history.

WELCOME BACK KEVIN:  The Louisiana College game marked the return to the court for Kevin Brown, who missed most of last season after suffering a foot injury in the eighth game of the year.  Brown averaged 4.8 points and shot .421 from three-point (8-21) last year, scoring a career-high 14 points at Michigan State.  In the first three games, Brown is averaging 5.3 points and 1.3 rebounds a game, scoring six points against Louisiana College, seven vs. McNeese State and three vs. Arkansas.

LONG & PAYTON NAMED TO ALL-SBC SQUAD:  Junior guard Elfrid Payton and sophomore forward Shawn Long were rewarded for their hard work when the duo were two of five players named to the 2013-14 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference first team in a balloting conducted of the league’s head coaches.  South Alabama’s Augustin Rubit, the only senior on the first team, earned preseason player of the year honors, while Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter and WKU’s T.J. Price were the other first team honorees.  Payton averaged 15.9 points and 5.6 rebounds last year, leading the league in both assists (181) and steals (80).  Long, the reigning SBC Freshman of the Year, averaged 15.5 points and 10.2 rebounds, leading all freshman nationally in rebounding.

LOUISIANA TABBED FOR 4TH IN SBC POLL:  With all five starters and a total of 10 lettermen back this season, the Ragin’ Cajuns earned some respect from the Sun Belt Coaches when they were picked to finish in a fourth place tie with league newcomer Georgia State when the Sun Belt announced its annual preseason coaches poll on Oct. 30.  Just 18 votes separated the top five teams with two-time tournament champion WKU getting the top nod with 91 points, including half of the 10 first place votes.  South Alabama was second with 78 points, including two first place votes.  Arkansas State was tabbed third with 74 points, one point ahead of both Louisiana (1 first place vote) and Georgia State (2), who each garnered 73 votes.

JERRY FLAKE TO BE HONORED:  Another number will be raised to the Cajundome rafters during the season when Jerry Flake (1965-69) has his number honored at half time of the Houston game on Dec. 14.  Over four decades after completing his career, Flake still ranks fifth in school history with 2,058 career points, averaging 19.2 points a game over the course of his career.  Flake’s number 20 will become the fifth retired jersey, joining Dwight "Bo" Lamar’s No. 10, the No. 14 worn by Marvin Winkler, Andrew Toney’s No. 24 and the No. 12 worn by Dean Church, which was retired in February, 2012.

LONG LEADS FRESHMEN IN REBOUNDING:  With 10 or more rebounds in 11 of his last 15 games last spring, Shawn Long finished the 2012-13 season as the top freshman rebounder in the country.  Long grabbed 337 rebounds in 33 games (10.2 rpg) to rank ahead of Binghamton’s Jordan Reed (9.6).  Long was 12th in rebounding overall.

LONG IS DOUBLE-DOUBLE TROUBLE: With 18 double-doubles in 33 games last year, Shawn Long finished 2012-13 ranked sixth nationally in the category.  Bucknell’s Mike Muscala led the nation with 22 with UNC-Wilmington’s Keith Rendleman and Towson’s Jerrelle Benimon having 20 and Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley and Tulane’s Josh Davis ranked fourth with 19.  Long had a double-double in 10 of the last 15 games in 2012-13, giving him 10 double-doubles in 20 league games last season.

CAJUNS BENEFIT FROM LATE FREE THROW SHOOTING:  The free throw shooting by the Cajuns was at its best late in the game as Louisiana went 142-for-196 (.724) from the line in the final 5:00 minutes and overtime.  Alan-Michael Thompson (15-16, .938), Shawn Long (21-28, .750) and Steven Wronkoski (14-19, .737) led the team while Bryant Mbamalu, a career .776 shooter (45-58), was 24-for-29 last year (.828).  That is a considerable improvement from the .617 (121-196) that the Cajuns shot during the 2011-12 season.

. . . BUT ARE JUST 5-FOR-8 RIGHT NOW:  After getting just four opportunities from the foul line in the final 5:00 of the first three games, Louisiana went a perfect four-for-four at Baylor on Sunday to improve to .625 for the year.  Elfrid Payton, who is now two-for-four, and Elridge Moore each made a pair of charity tosses.

GRIDER ENTERS HALL OF FAME:  Cajun basketball alumnus Sydney Grider (1988-90) was one of four Louisiana athletic alumni to be inducted into the Louisiana Athletic Hall of Fame.  Grider was joined by baseball standout Gene Bacque (1956-57), softball star Lynn Britton (1993-96) and football star Andy Martin (1979-82), bringing the number of Ragin’ Cajuns alumni to 142.  Grider, the most effective three-point shooter in school history, earned back-to-back first-team All-American South Conference honors as a junior and senior, averaging 23.5 points as a junior and leading the American South as a senior with a 25.5 average.  In that senior year he hit 131-of-321 three-point tries, setting Cajun school records in both categories.

NEXT UP:  After playing two games at Coastal Carolina to complete the EA Sports Maui on the Mainland, the Cajuns will return home on Wednesday, Nov. 27 to host reigning Southland Conference tournament champions Northwestern State, who competed in the NCAA Tournament last March.  The game will tip-off at 7:05 p.m. in the Cajundome.

Brian McCann
Sports Information Director
Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns
201 Reinhardt Drive
Lafayette, LA  70506-4297
Office:  (337) 482-6331
Cell:  (216) 798-6376