LAFAYETTE — One of the luxuries at University of Louisiana at Lafayette men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin’s disposal this season has been the Cajuns’ depth, and he hopes that luxury plays a role in Thursday night’s game against Arkansas State.

The Red Wolves come into the game with four players averaging 31 minutes or more per game against Sun Belt Conference teams. In contrast, the Cajuns have just one player logging more than 29 minutes per game in SBC play.

“We’ll certainly try to use our depth to our advantage,” Marlin said. “They’ve got four guys averaging 30-plus (minutes), similar to (Louisiana-Monroe). I felt (ULM was) tired late in the game; and in overtime, they missed shots they’d been making most of the game.”

Indeed, in the Cajuns’ overtime win against ULM last Tuesday, the Warhawks played only six players, and five of them logged 35 or more minutes. ULM missed all five of its field-goal attempts in overtime.

“These games are very demanding at this stage of the season in conference going down the stretch,” Marlin said. “It takes a lot out of you mentally and physically.”

What’s somewhat remarkable about Arkansas State is its record in close games despite the fact that its key players are often playing nearly the entire 40 minutes every night.

Six of the Red Wolves 12 games against conference opponents have been decided by three or fewer points, and their record in those games is 5-1, with the only loss coming in their last game against Troy. They’ve also won three overtime games against conference opponents.

Talented Mr. Carter

The last time Arkansas State played the Cajuns, Red Wolves guard Devin Carter went off for 25 points.

He hasn’t slowed much since then.

Carter is averaging 19.9 points per game against conference foes, including a pair of 30-plus point outbursts. He’s been lethal as a shooter, knocking down 43.6 percent of his 3-pointers while shooting 49.1 percent overall.

“He’s a very good player, a lefty that can really score,” Marlin said. “We’ll mix it up on him. Jay Wright will get an opportunity at him, (so will) Johnathan Stove.

Rest for the weary

Carnival season came at an ideal time for the Cajuns, who earned a weekend off after a challenging two-game stretch last week.

The Cajuns played their first overtime game of the year Tuesday night against ULM, met around dawn at the Cajundome on Wednesday, then made a four-leg, 12-hour trip to Boone, North Carolina, to face Appalachian State on Thursday night.

The team returned to Lafayette on Friday evening, and Marlin didn’t have his players return until a Monday afternoon practice.

“It was important that we got some rest this weekend, it couldn’t have come at a better time,” Marlin said. “Certainly the Mardi Gras break can be a distraction for our team, we had guys that had trouble getting into the Cajundome for practice, with the traffic and the parades going on, but we needed that break.

“Hopefully it will serve us well going into this weekend.”