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Men’s Basketball: Long, Cajuns Headed To SBC Semifinals After 90-68 Win Over Jaguars

NEW ORLEANS – Shawn Long recorded a career-high 34 points, highlighted by a career-high tying five 3-pointers, and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns advanced to the Sun Belt Conference semifinals with a 90-68 win over an injury-depleted South Alabama squad on Friday at Lakefront Arena.
 
Johnathan Stove added 14 points and seven rebounds for fourth-seeded Louisiana (17-13), which built a 25-point lead in the first half and scored 27 points off 19 South Alabama (14-19) turnovers. Bryce Washington recorded 12 points and a career-high six steals for the Ragin’ Cajuns with Devonta Walker scoring 11 points.
 
Louisiana, which advanced to the SBC semifinals for the third straight season, advanced to face top-seeded Little Rock (27-4) at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN3 and can be heard in the Lafayette area on Hot 107.9 FM, ESPN 1420-AM and RaginCajuns.com.
 
Stove started a 12-0 run for the Ragin’ Cajuns when he buried a 3-pointer – one of 10 made by the Ragin’ Cajuns – that snapped a 12-all deadlock and gave Louisiana the cushion it would need.
 
"We got off to a good start offensively and our defense was pretty good the first half," head coach Bob Marlin said. "It was a team effort by our guys. I told the players that the possession where we had about four offensive rebounds in one play summarized the game up for me and I am proud of them."
 
Long, who was 4-for-29 from behind the 3-point line since Jan. 1, finished 13-for-20 overall from the floor and 5-for-6 from behind the 3-point line as he recorded his third career 30-point game and first since scoring a then career-best 31 points at UT Arlington in the 2013-14 season.
 
"Coming in to the game, Coach Marlin told me to play loose and gave me the green light to take a lot of shots and I tried my best to take advantage of that," Long said.
 
The Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year got off to a quick start for the Ragin’ Cajuns, scoring seven of the team’s first 10 points, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key for a 10-7 lead. The 6-foot-11 senior finished Louisiana’s decisive run with a driving layup before tipping in his own miss that gave the Ragin’ Cajuns a 24-12 lead with 10:47 remaining in the half.
 
Washington, who had three steals during the first-half run, finished 4-for-6 from the floor and grabbed five rebounds as Louisiana outrebounded South Alabama, 40-23, including a 17-1 advantage on the offensive boards.
 
"Coach always tells us that we have to crash the boards, and we are all about offensive rebounds," Washington said. "We are ranked 13th in the country in rebounding margin and I think that is an advantage for us."
 
Louisiana built a 51-37 lead at halftime and took it’s biggest lead of the game – 87-62 – when Tiremone Williams converted a three-point play with 3:47 left.
 
"First and foremost, I’d like to congratulate Louisiana on a great win," South Alabama coach Matthew Graves said. "Coach Marlin and those guys did an outstanding job. They were very physical, did a nice job causing us to turn the ball over, they rebounded the ball at a high rate and if they make 10 or more 3’s they are going to be a really tough out in this tournament."
 
Playing without leading scorer Ken Williams, who suffered a foot injury in Thursday’s 67-61 win over Georgia Southern, was led by Barrington Stevens III with 13 points with Nick Stover adding 11.
 
The Jaguars, who had won seven of the last 10 meetings in the series, held a one-point lead on a pair of buckets by Don MuepoKelly before Shaq Calhoun gave South Alabama its final lead of the night, 6-5, on a jumper with 17:36 remaining in the first half.