LAFAYETTE — Riding a four-game winning streak heading into the last week of the regular season, Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin liked his team’s position as the calendar rolled into March.
“We’re excited about where we are,” he said Monday. “We’ve got the longest wining streak in the conference at this time. I think we’re playing as well as anyone in the league. I feel good about getting to March in this position.”
But he also is aware that his Ragin’ Cajuns still need to take care of business against Arkansas-Little Rock and Arkansas State this week.
“We’ve still got some work to do to hang on to this fourth seed,” Marlin said.
The Cajuns should be favored in both contests; the two Arkansas teams have a combined Sun Belt record of 14-23, but each has been playing better of late.
The Trojans have won five of their past seven games, with one loss coming to Georgia Southern in overtime.
Their game against the Cajuns will be their regular-season finale; they are sixth in the conference, a half-game ahead of three 7-11 teams. If they lose to the Cajuns, they’ll be sweating out the conference’s Saturday schedule to learn whether they made the conference tournament.
Arkansas State only leads Troy in the conference standings but has been playing inspired basketball lately — especially at home. The Red Wolves have won their past two home games, against UL-Monroe and Texas-Arlington — and they finish with two more at home, against the Cajuns and South Alabama.
“This is a big week for us,” Marlin said. “If we can be saying the same things a week from now, I’ll feel a little better.”
An uncertain future
Senior forward Brian Williams has missed the Cajuns’ past two games with a shoulder injury, and Marlin was not sure when he would return.
“I don’t know,” Marlin said. “We’ll find out a little bit more today when I talk to (trainer B.J. Duplantis), but last week it didn’t look good on Friday, and Saturday we didn’t discuss it.”
Williams, a fifth-year senior who transferred this offseason from Oklahoma State, has started 22 games this season and is the Cajuns’ second-leading scorer at 10.1 points.
Press the button
The Cajuns went to the defensive well in Saturday’s win against Georgia Southern, pulling out a rarely used full-court press at times during their 68-58 win.
Marlin said he used it because the Eagles have a solid half-court offense and he wanted to force them into playing at the Cajuns’ tempo.
“It’s scary pressing a team like that that has a shooter — and most teams do. … You’re leaving someone open when you press,” Marlin said. “That’s been beneficial to us when people go against us. We’re leery to do it against a shooter, but sometimes it needs to be done out of necessity to pick the pace up.
“Hopefully we can do more of it coming up in the tournament.”
Seniors to be honored
Thursday’s game against UALR is the home finale, meaning the Cajuns will honor Williams and guard Xavian Rimmer for Senior Day.
Marlin is hopeful the fans will turn out in droves for the team’s last appearance on its home court this season.
“I’d really like to encourage our crowd to come out and have a great send-off for these couple of young men that have done a great job for us over the years,” Marlin said.