LAFAYETTE — With the start of Sun Belt Conference play less than two weeks away, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball squad is hoping another Cajundome contest will keep its shooting skills sharp.
The Cajuns (5-4) head into a 7 p.m. meeting Wednesday with the Milligan College Buffaloes coming off a 115-59 win over Centenary that included a new school record 16 3-point buckets in 26 attempts. Within that team effort, senior guard Xavian Rimmer connected on five from behind the arc in the second half in a span of a few minutes.
“It was good to see Xavian Rimmer come out of his shooting woes,” Cajuns coach Bob Marlin said. “To make 5-of-5 in a short span is impressive. We are getting healthy and making progress.”
The next progress report comes against a team from Tennessee that is 10-4 overall and 5-1 in the NAIA’s Appalachian Athletic Conference. Three Buffaloes are double-figure scorers — with Port Arthur, Texas, native Mickey Woods leading the charge at 16.6 points per game. Morgan McLeod averages 10.4 and Julian Bailey chips in 10.2.
“They have an athletic group,” Marlin said. “They have a guy in Mickey Woods who we are very familiar with. He’s a good player. It will be somewhat of a homecoming for him as Milligan is going to piggyback with us and go play Lamar (in Beaumont, Texas). Julian Bailey is an active player. They were 8-0 and then they lost a couple and had some injuries.”
The Cajuns have periodically dealt with their own injuries during the first nine games of the campaign. Junior forward Shawn Long and sophomore guard Jay Wright missed a few games due to injury and illness, but both have started to round back into form. “Jay Wright is our best on the ball defender and we need that to help pressure the ball,” Marlin said. “He is getting better each time out and is getting a better understanding of what we have to do.”
Against Centenary, whose tallest player is 6-5, Marlin went to a variety of smaller lineups at times to match that personnel. The same approach is a possibility against Milligan, who has more size at its disposal thanks to McLeod being 6-8 and Bailey being 6-6.
“They have a couple of 6-8 guys and they are well coached,” Marlin said. “We want to use our size to our advantage and play inside-out (offensively).”
On the defensive end, part of building on the momentum of a 59-point effort against Centenary comes from the positive feelings that are part of seeing the ball go through the hoop on the offensive end.
“We want to play aggressively to score,” Marlin said. “When guys shoot well, they want to get back to the other end in a hurry.”