LAFAYETTE — University of Louisiana at Lafayette point guard Jay Wright was coming off another disappointing night offensively in the Cajuns loss to ULM last week, and fifth-year senior Brian Williams started his fourth consecutive game on the bench.
Both spoke with Cajuns men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin in one-on-one meetings before the Cajuns 84-80 overtime road win against Troy last Saturday, and both responded in a way that their coach wanted to see.
“I challenged those guys,” Marlin said.
After going 1-for-9 from the floor and picking up just one assist in 27 minutes during the Cajuns 67-55 loss to ULM, Wright scored 16 points and had three assists to one turnover Saturday. Williams had spent a string of games on the bench, but started against Troy and did exactly what was asked of him.
Both Wright and Williams used the words “get back on track” to describe their individual meetings with Marlin.
Wright, who said he’s always subscribed to the notion that a team goes as its point guard goes, felt personally responsible for the Cajuns performance against the Warhawks.
“Jay said, ‘Coach, it’s my fault we lost the Monroe game. I lost the Monroe game.’” Marlin recalled. “I said, ‘No, you didn’t lose the Monroe game, but when you play well, it certainly helps us and our team plays better.’”
Wright said: “I felt like I needed to do more. We were dropping a couple games, and I felt like (Marlin) and I needed to be more on the same page.”
The two spoke and watched film together, and Wright said he felt more confident when he took the floor against Troy. His 6-for-11 shooting performance was his best since he scored a career-high 20 points Jan. 3 against Arkansas-Little Rock.
While Wright initiated his meeting with the coach, Williams said his consultation with Marlin was mutually desired. Marlin knew his most-experienced player didn’t transfer from Oklahoma State to ride on the bench during the stretch run.
But, Marlin said, Williams has “to do the things necessary to get on the court, and he wasn’t doing those.”
Williams was removed from an every day starting role after the Cajuns road contest against South Alabama.
“I’m not where I need to be at this point of the year, so we were trying to get everything back on track,” Williams said. “He emphasized that I need to rebound more and then I’ll just make my shots. I can’t control minutes, but when I’m out there, I try to be as efficient as I can.”
Starting in his first game in a little more than two weeks, Williams was effective across the board for the Cajuns, scoring 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting while grabbing a team-high six rebounds.
The rebounding effort was a sign that Williams had understood the point Marlin was trying to get across in the meeting.
“I asked him to rebound the ball, and he went and got six — that led our team,” Marlin said. “And he got two offensive rebounds that led to baskets, very important in the course of the game.”
Williams was one of the team’s more effective rebounders earlier in the season, when he hauled in at least five rebounds in each of the Cajuns’ first seven games of the season. Marlin thought Williams’ rebounding effort against Troy was the best he’s seen from Williams snagged seven boards against Auburn in the season’s first month.
With just five games remaining in the regular season, two of the Cajuns most critical players feel they’re back on their way to where they need to be. Now the key is getting everyone else on the same page. Better late than never.
“We’re playing a lot of teams that are clicking right now and we’re not really clicking like we should be,” Williams said. “We’re trying to put it all together.”