MEN’S BASKETBALL: Toppers to defend four-year streak

Jay Lively

Four years ago today, Louisiana-Lafayette literally danced off the Diddle Arena floor after an 86-77 victory over the Western’s men’s basketball team.

That was four years ago. So what?

It also happens to be the last time a Topper team lost a Sun Belt Conference game at home – a string of 31 wins.

Tonight the Rajin’ Cajuns (9-5, 4-1 Sun Belt Conference) return to Diddle with hopes of breaking that streak and remaining at the top of conference standings.

Coach Darrin Horn said Louisiana-Lafayette is the most talented team in the Sun Belt this year.

“The biggest thing that stands out is their over-all talent level,” he said. “They’re a team, extremely deep and athletic. They have a good skill level with a lot of players that can really shoot the ball.”

While Western (8-9, 3-3) has won the previous five meetings between the two programs, including a 69-66 win in Lafayette last season, the Ragin’ Cajuns have emerged as the team to beat this year in conference play.

Lafayette goes nine deep in its rotation with six players averaging double figures. They are led by senior guard Brad Boyd who averages 13.3 points a game and is a sharp-shooter from behind the arc.

Senior guard Mike Wells said it will be important to keep Boyd from getting a hot hand.

“We’re getting better at guarding the three,” Wells said. “I told everybody that he can pull it from half-court and we have to get after him early and not let him get into a rhythm.”

Junior point guard Anthony Haynes has been in a rhythm of his own while shooting 54.5 percent on three-pointers last week. He said the team will need to be focused to come out with a win.

“The main thing for us is defense and the small things,” Haynes said. “We’ve got to win the loose balls and focus on the intangibles – the things that don’t show up in the box score.”

Wells said the rivalry exemplifies what college basketball is all about.

“We’ve won the league the past three years – so every team wants to beat us,” Wells said. “It’s just two great teams going at it. It’s just great basketball.”

Saturday Western will head to Florida International, (3-15, 0-6) where they will be looking for their first conference road win. The struggling Golden Panthers are led by senior guard Junior Matias and will be looking for their first conference win of the season.

Horn said the team isn’t going to take Florida International lightly.

“We haven’t won a conference game on the road yet,” he said. “We’ve got to play to win.”

Tonight’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette will tip off at 7.

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