LAFAYETTE — The Anteaters are coming to town.
Louisiana-Lafayette’s men’s basketball team will host UC-Irvine Wednesday at the Cajundome for a CollegeInsider.com Tournament quarterfinal game as part of a doubleheader with the women’s basketball team, who will face Youngstown State in a Women’s Basketball Invitational semifinal game.
Though the CIT does not seed teams participating in the tournament, the Anteaters came into the tournament with the highest team Ken Pomeroy ranking.
“They’re very big, they have excellent guard play as well,” said Cajuns coach Bob Marlin.
Very big might be an understatement. UC-Irvine boasts two players who stand 7-feet or taller, and in Senegal native Mamadou N’Diyae’s case, much taller. The sophomore center is the tallest player in college basketball at 7-foot-6.
UC-Irvine has three other players who are listed at 6-foot-10, and a pair of guards in Luke Nelson and Alex Young who average double figures.
Earlier this season, UC-Irvine used a starting lineup where all five players were 6-foot-8 or taller in what the university dubbed as “the tallest lineup in college basketball history.”
The Anteaters were an NCAA tournament team last season, and had a two-point lead on Louisville inside of a minute before the Cardinals closed the game on a 4-0 run.
They built on that experience this season, rolling to a 25-8 record before losing to Long Beach State in the Big West tournament semifinals.
Based on that top Ken Pomeroy ranking, UC-Irvine received a bye for the CIT’s second round, and has not played since an overtime win against an overtime road win against North Dakota on March 16.
The Cajuns (96 points) and Anteaters (89 points) have the two highest scoring games in the tournament this year.
Holy Day basketball?
If the Cajuns beat UC-Irvine Wednesday night, there’s a possibility they would host a semifinal game on Easter Sunday.
The tournament’s official website lists March 27 as the date for semifinal games, and the Cajuns would not be able to host a game Saturday anyway because of a scheduling conflict at the Cajundome.
The Cajuns are grateful for the opportunity to play at home again after a rough travel schedule to its game against Furman in South Carolina last weekend.
“It took all day Thursday to get the travel lined up, we got it finished at 5:30 (p.m.) and we had to be at the airport the next morning at 4:45,” Marlin said.
“It was similar to the Appalachian State trips that we’ve taken where you fly to Atlanta, you sit for three hours, you fly again to Charlotte and then you bus for a couple of hours, then practice. On top of that it was an afternoon game on Saturday.”
And to add to that misery, several Cajuns players got sick during the trip, including sophomore forward Johnathan Stove, who was held out of the starting lineup for only the second time this season.
Sophomore forward Bryce Washington also tweaked his knee in the game against Furman.
“We’ve got a couple of guys that are sick, Bryce injured is knee on Saturday as well and we’ll get the update on him (Monday),” Marlin said. “But both of them hopefully will be able to go because we need them.”