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Men’s Basketball: Game at Blackham worth logistical headache – Long named Lou Hinson All-American

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 26, 2015


Workers lay the UL basketball court down at Blackham Coliseum on Tuesday. The coliseum will be used for the Cajuns basketball game Thursday against Evansville in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament quarterfinals.(Photo: Brad Kemp/Special to The Advertiser)

When UL officials started kicking around the idea of holding a postseason college basketball game at Blackham Coliseum, they realized they essentially were dealing with a blank slate.

A really old, really blank slate.

But they decided to go for it anyway — because, as Ragin’ Cajuns associate athletic director John Dugas sees it, it’s well worth however much of a logistical headache it may be.

As a result, the 22-13 Cajuns play host Thursday night to Missouri Valley Conference-member Evansville in storied Blackham — their longtime home, prior to the current Cajundome — for a CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) quarterfinal-round game.

“We don’t have critical things like Internet, and there are questions about power — you know, just basic things,” Dugas said.

Cajuns coach Bob Marlin is all for it, though, no matter what the obstacles.

“Excited to play in Blackham. … That’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. … It has a lot of history and nostalgia,” he said.

“We’ll have to do some different things for pregame … and locker room situations both teams and shower situations, but we’ll make it work.”

Still, as the possibility increased, Dugas felt obliged to do a walk-through of the arena with basketball operations director Mike Murphy.

“I showed him the locker rooms,” Dugas said. “I wanted him to be fully aware of the situation — just so they wouldn’t be shocked when we got over here to play.

“After we looked at it, and Coach Marlin looked at it, they actually were pretty intrigued at the prospect.

“So then,” Dugas added, “I just started to put a list together of everything we would need to make this happen, knowing it would take a massive team effort, not just from the university, but (also) from the Cajundome, to get everything over here.”

Dugas really did mean “everything.”

“There’s absolutely nothing here,” he said. “There were no goals, no scoreboard, nothing.”

The Cajundome isn’t available for basketball tonight because Louisiana IceGators minor-league hockey games are scheduled Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

So once UL President Joseph Savoie signed off on the idea to play at Blackham, where UL teams of former glory days once took the floor, the daunting endeavor was underway.

It was good news for the Cajuns, who had to go on the road for their first two CIT games against two Southland Conference clubs — at Incarnate Word in San Antonio and at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas.

“If you really want them to do well in the tournament and try to win it,” Dugas said, “you need to try to get a home game for them.

“So once we realized it really was a possibility and we were gonna try to make a run at it and do this, everybody just jumped on board. The Cajundome staff has been awesome with the help they’ve given, with their conversion crews bringing everything here.”

Baskets. Floor. Scoreboards.

You name it, Blackham needed it.

The arena was UL’s home from Feb. 6, 1950, when it beat Louisiana College 52-51, through March 14, 1985, when the Cajuns beat Florida 65-64 in a first-round NIT game.

The span includes the 1973-74 and ’75-75 seasons, when the program — fresh off multiple NCAA Tournament appearances — was shuttered by the NCAA because of rules violations.

“Coach, I was here as a (baseball) player and we’d go to Blackham and it was rockin’, man,” UL baseball coach Tony Robichaux told Marlin earlier this week. “I mean, it would threaten then opponent when they came through the door, that’s for sure.

“If it’s gonna back like it was back then,” Robicahux joking added, “make sure you get the campus police.”

The Cajuns haven’t played at Blackham since a Jan. 2, 2006, win over Georgia State – the last of four games played there in the 2005-06 season, when for several weeks the Cajundome was unavailable because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

(UL went 3-1 in that stretch, also beating McNeese State and Oral Roberts but losing to Charlotte.)

“It’s really been impressive to see how people are getting involved and jumping onboard,” Dugas said. “You know, it’s more, at this point, than just a basketball game. It’s turning into a really neat event.

“And while we may not have enough restrooms or concession stands, there’s so much history in this building and so many memories.

“People (are) remembering the seats they had back in the day. They remember Andrew Toney and Bo Lamar, all those guys,” Dugas added, referencing a couple Cajuns who went on to play in the NBA. “It’s really so special to so many people.”

Because the Cajundome’s massive scoreboards couldn’t be brought to Blackham, UL actually is bringing small boards from Moncla Facility practice court.

“They’re wireless boards, so you don’t have to worry about routing any cabling,” Dugas said. “(An electrical contractor) had them installed in one day. … We turned them on, plugged in the controller, and everything worked.

“They’re actually in the same exact location that the old boards were when we played here. I remember those old boards. They had (advertising) of places that don’t even exist anymore.”

Dugas said that back in day, some Blackham games accommodated more than 10,000 — including wooden bleacher seats and floor seats.

Thursday night’s configuration will hold more than 7,000.

Dugas isn’t sure what attendance will be, but figures it will be higher than if the game were at the Cajundome.

“Just seeing how exited people are getting about this … it’s really hard to say,” he said. “I think we’re going to surprised.”

LAGNIAPPE: Cajuns junior big man Shawn Long was named one of 31 finalists for the Lou Henson Award, which honors the nation’s top player from a mid-major program.

Marlin suggested he does not expect senior small forward Brian Williams (shoulder) to play tonight. He has missed eight straight games, and has been out more than a month. True freshman Johnathan Stove has been starting instead.

CIT semifinal games are scheduled for Tuesday night, and the 32-team consolation tournament title game is set for April 2. All three games will be televised by the CBS Sports Network.

UL (22-13, 13-7 Sun Belt) vs. EVANSVILLE (21-12, 9-9 Missouri Valley)

WHAT: CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT), quarterfinal-round game

WHERE: Blackham Coliseum

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

RADIO: KHXT 107.9 FM with Jay Walker

INTERNET: CollegeInsider.com/SideArmSports

TV: None

ABOUT THE CAJUNS: UL advanced to the second round with a 83-68 win at Incarnate Word, and to the quarterfinals when Jay Wright hit a last-second 3-pointer for a 70-71 win last Saturday at Sam Houston State.

PF/C Shawn Long averages a team-high 16.2 points and a Sun Belt-leading 10.2 rebounds per game.

The Cajuns average a Sun Belt-high 77.3 points and SBC-high 39.6 rebounds per game.

ABOUT THE OPPONENT: Evansville advanced to the quarterfinals with an 83-68 road victory over Eastern Illinois on Monday night, and beat Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne 82-77 in their CIT opener.

The Purple Aces, led by D.J. Balentine (19.5 points per game) average 70.1 ppg.

Evansville leads the all-time series 2-0, with victories in 1967 and 1971 (NCAA College Tournament).

Long Named Lou Henson Award Finalist

The finalists for the 2015 Lou Henson Award were announced Wednesday with Cajuns junior Shawn Long being named as one of the 31 finalists.

The Lou Henson Award is presented annually to the top Mid-Major player in Division I college basketball, while the finalists also represent the Lou Henson all-America team.

Long was named to the all-Sun Belt Conference first team at the end of the regular season for the second straight year and currently ranks as the only player in the SBC in the top five in both scoring (16.4 ppg) and rebounding (10.2 rpg).

He has scored in 23 of his last 24 games played and earlier this season posted the first 20-point, 20-rebound game by a Ragin’ Cajun since 1981. Long has also moved into the all-time top 10 at UL in scoring, while ranking second in blocked shots and third all-time in rebounding.

Long is currently the active leader in the nation in double-doubles with 51 for his three-year career.

— Special to The Advertiser

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Athletic Network Footnote by Ed Dugas

Click below for the video depicting the Blackham historical highlights and attend the game to view the new highlights in person.

“Tributes to Blackham” 1985 by KLFY and KATC TV (2 sections) posted by Jay Walker, ESPN 1420

Bobby Paschal coached the Cajuns in 1984-85, the team’s last season in Blackham and continued as our coach in 1985-86, his last year at USL and the Cajuns first season playing in the Cajundome.

Click here for the story by Dan McDonald in The Advertiser on Dec. 23, 2005 entitled, "The Red vs. White Game" when McNeese forgot their uniforms and wore the Cajuns’ red ones.

Players and coaches whose teams played at Blackham will be recognized at half-time of the game. The head coaches of this special group include: J.C. "Dutch" Reinhardt 1930-57, Beryl Shipley 1957-73, Jim Hatfield 1974-78, and Bobby Paschal 1978-86. Hatfield and Paschal have indicated that they plan to be at the game.