UL’s first Sun Belt road trip of the season was filled with more obstacles than expected and still the Ragin’ Cajuns delivered a sweep to start the league schedule.
Now coach Bob Marlin is hoping his Cajuns can deliver an encore performance when they host Arkansas State at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Cajundome, before taking on Little Rock on Saturday.
“The guys responded (on the road), but certainly we’re glad to be home,” Marlin said.
The Cajuns are now 7-5 overall and 2-0 in league play, while the Red Wolves (10-3) have won seven of eight games overall and are 1-0 in Sun Belt play. Arkansas State beat Georgia Southern 74-56 at home, but the Georgia State game was canceled due to COVID.
The Red Wolves’ three losses were to Illinois and Texas Tech on the road and Morehead State at home.
“They’ve got the preseason Player of the Year with their post player (Norchad Omier),” UL director of operations Mike Murphy said. “They’ve got three really good guards who can bring it. They’re athletic. They can score in multiple ways. This will be a real challenge.
“They’re really dynamic offensively at the guard position.”
Omier is an extremely active player inside despite only being listed at 6-foot-7, averaging 15.1 points and 10.4 rebounds a game.
The guard trio includes two familiar names in Marquis Eaton (12.2 pts, 2.8 rebs) and Caleb Fields (8.0 pts, 3.8 rebs), as well as Arkansas transfer Desi Sills (14.2 pts, 2.8 rebs).
Coming off the bench is a productive 3-point shooter in Malcolm Farrington at 35.6% behind the arc, only trailing Eaton at 37.0%.
UL leads the all-time series 57-29 with the two teams splitting four games last season.
“They’re very similar,” Marlin said of the Red Wolves. “They have everyone back except for an additional guard named Desi Sills.
“Their rotation isn’t as big as it was last year at this stage, but they’re a dangerous team.”
As for the Cajuns, Marlin said his staff expected a hot start heading into the holiday break.
“When we left Houston (Dec. 14), we felt like we had momentum,” he said. “I told the staff, “We’re going to play off this when we get back from Christmas.” We felt like we had that momentum going. Then to go get two road wins is big.
“Now we come back home and we have six of eight at home, so this is a key time for us. We want our fans to come out and support us, because we can put ourselves in position if we can continue to prepare and play well. We’ve got some good things in front of us.”
Testing positive on last week’s road trip that produced wins over Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina were five initially in Dou Gueye, Jalen Dalcourt, Isaiah Richards, Kentrell Garnett and Greg Williams. With the Sun Belt abiding by the five-day protocol, all five are eligible to play Thursday.
With Joe Charles not testing positive until Saturday, his status is more uncertain.
Also, Marlin revealed Monday that Richards has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
Guard Brayan Au, though, may be available this weekend after sitting out last weekend with an ankle injury.
As a result of the roster fluctuation, such players as Ty Harper, Durey Cadwell and Michael Thomas played significant minutes in last week’s sweep.
Thursday’s game is their next opportunity to impress the staff.
“Now can we be consistent with that type of effort off the bench?,” Marlin said. “That’s the big question.”
UL’s biggest mainstay over the last month has been Jordan Brown with five straight double-digit games, averaging 19 points and eight rebounds during that stretch.