LAFAYETTE — With eight games remaining in the regular season, it’s all about positioning for the Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball team.
The Ragin’ Cajuns would like to play well enough to be in the mix for the Sun Belt regular-season championship, but that’s not the most important goal for coach Bob Marlin’s squad. It starts with earning a high seed in the SBC tournament, which would make their path to the tournament title game easier, which would boost their chances of making their second consecutive NCAA tournament.
“There are a couple teams in front of us that we’ve got an opportunity still to play, one of them being UT-Arlington; we’re right there with those guys,” Marlin said. “We’re a couple losses out of a high seed, and that’s our goal to get the best one we can get and play our best basketball in March.”
It starts Saturday with UT-Arlington (12-9, 6-5), which is the only league team the Cajuns (13-10, 7-5) have not faced this season. Saturday’s 1 p.m. game in the Cajundome will air on ESPN2.
“This is our first time playing them,” junior forward Shawn Long said. “They … get up and down (the court), a lot so we’re going to work on that (Friday).”
The Mavericks enter the game on a two-game losing streak, and this will be their first game of a three-game road swing. They have the SBC’s fourth-best scoring offense (70.3 points per game) and field goal percentage (43.1 percent).
They balance their scoring load effectively. UT-Arlington does not have a player among the top 20 in SBC individual scoring, but it has eight players averaging 5.0 points or more.
As usual, the Cajuns should have an advantage in the post with Long. The Cajuns big man has been racking up double-doubles lately, with four straight games with at least 17 points and 12 rebounds.
The Cajuns used a starting lineup of Long, sophomore guards Jay Wright and Hayward Register, and freshmen Johnathan Stove and Bryce Washington for each of the past two games, both of them wins. It’s the first time the Cajuns have won back-to-back games since early January, and it’s likely they’ll continue to roll with that lineup for the time being.
“If you produce, then you’re going to continue to play,” Marlin said. “It’s on the defensive end, (too), not just the offensive end. … We want guys to impact the game, (but) not just with their offense.”
The Cajuns are ranked fourth in the SBC. The top two teams, Georgia Southern (9-2) and UL-Monroe (9-3), meet Saturday in Monroe, while third-place Georgia State visits South Alabama.
“We’d like to be a little bit higher,” Marlin said. “But we’re not, so we have to move forward from where we are. We know it’s going to come down to the final game, the final weekend for seeding and maybe who wins the championship.”
Women look to keep surging
The Cajuns women (15-6, 7-5) will look to win their third straight game against UT-Arlington (11-9, 5-6) on Saturday after the men play.
The women have won seven of their past nine games, largely thanks to a suffocating defense, but lately the offense has bailed them out.
The Cajuns scored 83 and 70 points in their past two games, their highest-scoring outputs in SBC play this season. They needed i,t too, winning the games by two and four points.
Junior guard Jaylyn Gordon has led the way for the Cajuns in the scoring department lately, dropping 22 points in each of the past two games. But she has had plenty of help: The Cajuns have had at least four players in double digits in their past two wins.