Georgia State ready for Long, Louisiana-Lafayette

The Georgia State men’s basketball team will attempt to win its fifth consecutive game and fourth at the GSU Sports Arena when it hosts Louisiana-Lafayette at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

The key to defeating the Ragin’ Cajuns, as any team that has played them knows, is to try to contain center Shawn Long.

Despite playing a non-conference schedule that included Miami, Alabama and UCLA , the 6-foot-11 Long is averaging 18.9 points and 12.6 rebounds per game this season. He entered the season as the NCAA’s active leader in double-doubles (52) and has added 10 more to that total this season.

Long has had success against Georgia State. In six games against the Panthers, he is averaging 16 points on 32-of-59 shooting with 12.3 rebounds.

“You won’t stop a guy like that,” Georgia State coach Ron Hunter said. “For the most part, what we do is we play our defense so that the other guys can’t get going. We want to make him earn everything he gets. More importantly, we want to make him play defense.”

That’s the practical part of Georgia State’s game plan. There is also an emotional part.

It’s known that the two teams don’t like each other much, mostly because Hunter said the teams are usually playing with something on the line.

The animosity goes back to the 2013-14 season in Lafayette when Cajuns coach Bob Marlin, after the Panthers won 77-70, voiced his displeasure that Hunter sometimes wanders onto the edges of the court while coaching.

No matter. The Panthers defeated the Cajuns in the next game at the Sports Arena.

But Louisiana-Lafayette got the last laugh that season by rallying to defeat Georgia State in the championship game of the Sun Belt tournament.

After another loss to in the teams’ first meeting during the 2014-15 season, the Panthers bounced back and have won the past two, including one in the Sun Belt tournament, to improve to 4-2 against the Cajuns in the past six games.

Hunter said he and Marlin are fine now.

“We’re good,” Hunter said. “He’s a real competitive guy and so am I.”

There is something again already on the line this season.

The Cajuns were picked in the preseason to win the Sun Belt but haven’t played as well as expected. Thursday’s 74-65 win over Georgia Southern was the team’s first on the road this season and kept them from falling to 1-4 in the conference.

They need a win and a good showing in their upcoming five-game homestand to keep alive any hope of winning the conference’s regular season title. The Panthers, who were picked in the preseason to finish second, are starting to find their stride after losing R.J. Hunter, Ryan Harrow, Curtis Washington and Ryann Green off last year’s NCAA tournament team.

Georgia State hammered Louisiana-Monroe, picked to finish third, 65-51 on Thursday. The defense was typically strong in limiting the Warhawks to 31.8-percent shooting in the decisive first half. The offense, continue to show gradual improvement, shot 44.8 percent with Jeff Thomas leading the team with 14 points.

A win will help Georgia State (4-1 Sun Belt) keep pace with Arkansas-Little Rock, Texas-Arlington and Arkansas State, who are undefeated in the conference.

“We’re playing really good basketball right now,” Hunter said. “Earlier in the year we weren’t making shot. Now we are making shots.”