LAFAYETTE — Considering that they will be playing their fifth game in 10 days, it would be logical to assume the Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball team may be playing on some tired legs Saturday.
But, considering the opponent, the Ragin’ Cajuns shouldn’t have to try too hard to tap into their energy resources.
The Cajuns (11-8, 5-3) close their grueling stretch at 1 p.m. Saturday at Sun Belt Conference rival Georgia State (12-7, 5-3). The teams have combined to create some instant classics of late.
After his team held a commanding lead in its win against Arkansas State on Thursday, Cajuns coach Bob Marlin allowed himself to look forward a bit when he rested the starters for the majority of the second half.
“That was in the back of our mind,” Marlin said, referencing Saturday’s game.
Georgia State, meanwhile, will be playing its first game since Monday.
“Those guys will be ready for us,” Marlin said.
The Cajuns once again will face the challenge of containing the Panthers’ dynamic scoring duo of Ryan Harrow (20.4 points per game) and R.J. Hunter (20.2), who are ranked 1-2 in the SBC in scoring.
If recent history means anything, the two likely will score their fair share of points against the Cajuns. They combined for 52 points against the Cajuns earlier this season — in an 84-80 Cajuns victory in the Cajundome on Jan. 8 — and they averaged 45.3 points against the Cajuns in three meetings last year.
Harrow was suspended for the Panthers’ game Monday, a 60-54 win at Arkansas State, but Marlin is going into the game assuming he will play.
The Cajuns’ best defense against the Panthers’ talented scorers has been their own offense; the Cajuns scored 82 and 84 points in their previous two meetings against Georgia State, both of which resulted in a Cajuns victory (and the first of which clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament).
For that to happen again, the Cajuns need their shooting touch to look more like it did against Arkansas State — against whom they connected on 55 percent of their shots — than it did during a three-game losing streak that preceded the Arkansas State game.
The Panthers primarily — if not exclusively — run a 2-3 zone defense that is designed to congest the area around the basket and make it progressively more difficult to get clean looks the closer the ball gets to the goal. The Cajuns have struggled at times against this defense when their shooting touch goes cold.
This game is significant for both teams as it relates to seeding for the conference tournament.
Both the Panthers and the Cajuns have a 5-3 record in SBC play, and a win would put either team a half- or full game behind the conference leader, depending on the outcome of the game between SBC front-runners UL-Monroe and Georgia Southern.
Women hope surge continues
Coming off an impressive win against Arkansas State, the Cajuns women (12-5, 4-4) will look to move above .500 in SBC play against Georgia State (8-9, 3-5) at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Cajuns have combined a resurgent offensive game with some tenacious defense to claw their way back into the mix after stumbling to an 0-3 start in conference play.
While they’ve shot the ball better since their sluggish start, the offense has been keyed by an aggressive defense that is forcing a league-high 21.4 turnovers per game.
They’ve taken care of the ball, too. Going into Saturday’s game, the women’s plus-6.6 per-game turnover margin ranks among the best in the country.
The teams have plenty of scorers. The Cajuns come into the game with three players averaging double figures: Jaylyn Gordon (13.3), Kia Wilridge (13.2) and Keke Veal (12.3) — all of whom are in the top 15 in the SBC in scoring average. The Panthers counter with four players averaging double digits, led by sophomore Angel McGowan’s 12.6 points per game.