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Men’s Basketball: Win over Ga. guarantees UL’s hold on 4th place

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, February 28, 2015


UL guard Jay Wright (1) attempts to drive past Georgia Southern Trent Wiedman (44) on Saturday at the Cajundome. (Photo: Paul Kieu/The Advertiser)


VIDEO: Guards boost Cajuns to win over Georgia Southern


Coach Bob Marlin wanted his Ragin’ Cajuns to be playing their best basketball in March. Toward that end, UL has exited February in fine fashion.

The Cajuns beat Sun Belt Conference co-leader Georgia Southern handily on the final day of the short month, winning 68-58 in front of 3,937 on Saturday night at the Cajundome.

UL won for the fourth straight time behind a game-high 20 points that included 4-of-5 3-point shooting from point guard Jay Wright, 14 points that included 4-for-7 on trey tries by shooting guard Hayward Register and an 11-point, 12-rebound double-double from big man Shawn Long.

With that UL, heads into a key month playing much like it’s wanted to all season.

"That’s what we broke with in the locker room: ‘It’s March,’ " Marlin said. "We’re playing at a high level. We’ve defended really good for three games in a row."

The victory improved the Cajuns to 17-12 overall and 11-7 in Sun Belt play, solidifying their hold on fourth place in the league standings and giving them a mathematical chance to finish as high as second before the March 12-15 SBC Tournament gets under way in New Orleans.

It also guaranteed UL of a winning record in 2014-15.

Georgia Southern — which beat UL at home earlier this season, and which could have moved alone in first place in the Sun Belt with a win — is now tied for first with UL Monroe and Georgia State.

"It feels good," junior guard Kasey Shepherd said of the win.

"But, at the same time, I think the general consensus among us is that it proves what we already know.

"We already know we’re one of the best teams in the conference, and whether or not we play like that is up to us," he added. "But … this does give us a lot of confidence that we can go out and beat anybody on any given night."

UL, which closes its regular season this week with games Thursday at home against Arkansas-Little Rock and Saturday at Arkansas State, led 34-33 at halftime after Long dunked home a missed jumper by Wright with 52 seconds to go before the break.

Georgia Southern briefly led by two points early in the second half, but after Johnathan Stove hit a 3-pointer to break a 36-36 tie with 18:04 left the Cajuns led the rest of the way.

UL extended its advantage to as many as 11 when Wright knocked down a trey midway through the half.

Georgia Southern did get to within three with just under three minutes to go, but with 1:10 left forward Bryce Washington drove from up top and kicked a pass to Shepherd on the right side for a 3-pointer that made it 64-58 with 1:10 remaining.

Shepherd had been just 1-of-5 from the field before making the shot.

"I felt like I owed my team one," he said. "I felt like I was owed one, for the ones I’ve been missing, so I’m just glad we got it and glad I was able to help the team."

Shepherd and Long both hit two free throws in the final 35 seconds as UL sealed it.

Shepherd’s two freebies came after he rebounded a missed Eric Ferguson free throw on the other end, then was fouled.

"It was clutch," Shepherd said. "I know everybody was getting worried.

"To kind of shut the play down right there — get the board and give us two more points — I think that was big, and we were able to hold onto the lead, thankfully."

The Cajuns wound up 12-for-24 (50 percent) on trey tries, while the Eagles hit only 7-of-25 (28 percent) as Jelani Hewitt – the Sun Belt’s No. 3 scorer – made just 1-of-10.

Hewitt wound up with 17 points, 1.3 below his average coming in.

Georgia Southern also was limited to just 25.7 percent shooting from the field in the second half, which was the difference between a tighter game and one that ended up being decided by double digits.

"We made some mistakes," Marlin said, "but I loved our effort. … I thought we played very hard on the defensive end in the second half."

LAGNIAPPE: Long now has 14 double-doubles this season. … UL senior small forward Brian Williams missed a second straight game due to a shoulder injury. … Georgia Southern’s Angel Matias went to the floor with an injury to what appeared to Marlin to be the Eagles starter’s already surgically repaired ankle. He exited on crutches.