UL-Lafayette’s men’s basketball team shouldn’t be affected by a trip to the Caribbean.
The Ragin’ Cajuns traveled to Cuba in August as part of an international basketball exchange. Johnathan Stove and Bryce Washington spent 15 days earlier in the summer on a basketball trip to New Zealand with the Athletes in Action group. A third Cajun, Frank Bartley, traveled to China for a similar experience two years ago.
UL-Lafayette coach Bob Marlin will take the Cajuns (2-1) to the inaugural Cayman Islands Classic beginning Monday, and he also has experience with first-time events. While on the Alabama staff, he was part of the first Top of the World Tournament in Fairbanks, Alaska.
“This one will have a little bit nicer weather than that one did,” Marlin said Friday just after the Cajuns’ 115-82 win over Savannah State.
The Cajuns' first-round opponent is unbeaten Iowa (3-0) at 11 a.m. Monday at the brand-new John Gray Gymnasium in George Town, Cayman Islands. Fans can watch all tournament games at caymanislandsclassic.com.
“This tournament is a great opportunity for us,” Marlin said. “When we were invited, we wanted to know who was in the field, and they said they were going to go after a good RPI field and they’ve done that.”
The Cajuns are grouped with Iowa, Wyoming and South Dakota State in one side of the eight-team bracket, with Cincinnati, UAB, Richmond and Buffalo in the other half. UL-Lafayette will play either Wyoming or South Dakota State on Tuesday at 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. and will play a third game on Wednesday.
Iowa is also a veteran of long-distance travel, with the Hawkeyes winning four mid-August games in Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Iowa holds wins against Chicago State (95-62), Alabama State (92-58) and Grambling (85-74), the third of those coming Thursday night after the visiting Tigers surprisingly led by three points with 11 minutes left. Iowa went on a 14-0 run after that to open up the late margin.
The Hawkeyes have averaged 90.7 points through three games, which is impressive until you compare it to the Cajuns, who are averaging 101.3 points. UL-Lafayette rolled to a 113-58 win over Louisiana College on Tuesday, but Iowa will be a step back up in competition similar to the Cajuns’ season-opening 94-76 loss at Ole Miss.
“We took this tournament with the idea that we’ve got a veteran team this year,” Marlin said. “Playing three days in a row, against good competition, this is good practice for the conference tournament. We’ve got some depth that we can turn to that we didn’t have a year ago, so this makes a lot of sense for us.”
Bartley and Washington each had 21 points in Friday’s win over Savannah State as the Cajuns tied a school record with 16 3-point baskets. Bartley had five of those, and Washington had his first double-double this year — after getting 22 last season — with 15 rebounds in leading a big 52-32 team advantage.
The most impressive 3-point display, though, came from true freshman guard Cedric Russell, who hit 6 of 7 outside the arc. The product of Alexandria-Peabody High has hit 15 of 22 from long distance in UL-Lafayette’s first three games and added 20 points on Friday, helping the Cajuns shoot 53.8 percent from the floor and 45.7 percent from 3-point range.
Iowa forward Jack Nunge, who's 6-foot-11, has had long-distance success for the Hawkeyes with three 3-pointers among his 17 points against Grambling. Iowa had five players in double figures in that win.