LAFAYETTE — The Ragin’ Cajuns’ pregame chase for eight straight wins included: an eight-hour break, a morning dash to the airport and a bus to Boone.
That abbreviated version of the UL-Lafayette men’s basketball squad’s itinerary was part of the journey to the Appalachian State campus, where the Cajuns (12-8, 8-3 Sun Belt) will tangle with the Mountaineers (6-15, 4-6) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Holmes Center in Boone, North Carolina.
In the immediate aftermath of a home victory over in-state rival Louisiana-Monroe on Tuesday, Cajuns coach Bob Marlin knew his team had a busy day coming up between games.
“It’s a long day of travel,” Marlin said. “With that in mind, it’s the next game and one we are concerned about. Appalachian State is well-coached and they have good players. Frank Eaves (the Mountaineers’ leading scorer), struggled the other night at South Alabama, but in their last home game he had a huge game. I think he had 37.”
Eaves had 37 points in a 101-100 loss to Georgia Southern on Jan. 25. That contest was one of the five times Eaves has reached the 30-point mark this season within his Sun Belt-leading 20.3 scoring average. When the Cajuns and Mountaineers met in the Cajundome on Jan. 2. Eaves managed 19 points, but all of that damage was done after UL-Lafayette had built a 21-8 advantage during the first 10 minutes in an eventual 79-58 Cajuns triumph.
An Appalachian attempt at getting a payback will come in a tougher environment.
“They are more than just Frank Eaves,” Marlin said. “It’s the road, it’s going to be difficult with elevation and all that. We will be ready.”
The Cajuns’ last game prep before the trip included a readiness to rebound — they beat Louisiana-Monroe on the boards 51-30, with 20 of those rebounds coming on the offensive end.
“I think we are fresh,” Marlin said. “It is tough because we played several games in a week. We’ve got a lot of energy. Rebounding is energy and Monroe is the third-leading rebounding team in our league.”
While Shawn Long is pulling down an average of 13.9 rebounds to lead the Cajuns, the Mountaineers have received smaller individual contributions in that category. Griffin Kenney averages 4.8 rebounds to take the top spot for Appalachian State.
The last time the Cajuns made the trip to Boone, school was not in session in early January 2015, as the Cajuns had five guys reach double figures in an 80-64 win.
“We got off to a good start, had the lead at halftime and Bryce (Washington) had a really good game for us,” Marlin said.
CAJUNS aim to keep pace in conference: Before they return home to host unbeaten Arkansas State (10-0 in Sun Belt) next week, the Cajuns women’s team (16-4, 8-2) will take on Appalachian State (6-13, 3-7) at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Coach Garry Brodhead said having an experienced group headed by seniors Kia Wilridge, Keke Veal and Brooklyn Arceneaux could pay dividends for a team with a short gap between conference games.
“We’re going to watch film on the plane by passing lap-tops around,” Brodhead said. “We’ll spend an hour and a half practicing and watching film (Wednesday) night and the next morning. Sometimes we react ... our team because we are a veteran team, sometimes we play better.”
When the two teams played in Lafayette a month ago, the Cajuns managed to collect a 60-51 victory that Brodhead said was short in some areas.
“I didn’t find that we played very hard, and we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Brodhead said. “We shot 20 percent in the first half and that was a struggle. We had to go to pressing and kind of get them to turn it over. We did. We got a few layups in the second half, but it wasn’t a very pretty game.”