Frustration must be setting in for UL and head coach Bob Marlin.
Entering Thursday night’s matchup with South Alabama, the Ragin’ Cajuns had lost five games in a row, its longest losing streak since the 2010-2011 season.
The losses and injuries to key contributors Kobe Julien, Durey Cadwell, Javone Lowery and now P.J. Hardy have taken a toll on the Cajuns’ rotation and is forcing Marlin to look deep into his bench for a spark.
The injury bug bit again Thursday when freshman guard Trajan Wesley took a hard fall on the floor at the beginning of the second half and was stretchered off of the court.
In short, the Cajuns are battling adversity on many levels and are looking for any answers they can find to win those battles.
The battle to break that streak continues for the Ragin’ Cajuns as they dropped their sixth game in a row by a 60-57 margin to the Jaguars at the Cajundome.
UL (5-9, 0-3) didn’t help its own cause by shooting 32.8 percent from the field for the game while the Jaguars (8-6, 1-2) largely sat in a zone a majority of the time.
As a result, the Cajuns struggled to work the ball inside and took 41 of its 58 field goal attempts from behind the three-point arc. The 41 three-point attempts tied a school record set in 1996 against Ohio State. The 12 threes the Cajuns connected on were a season-high.
“We battled hard and had some shots start to drop in the second half,” Marlin said. “But we just didn’t make enough shots against their zone and weren’t able to get it inside enough.”
The zone was a look that was expected from Marlin based off of past matchups with the Jags but seemed to take players by surprise.
In its previous two games, South Alabama had largely played man-to-man defense. They saved that particular look for the final seconds of Thursday’s contest.
“We’d seen a lot of man from them, so it surprised me,” junior guard Cedric Russell said. “They really sat in zone the entire game until the last 30 seconds.”
Down 60-57 with 18 seconds to play, Louisiana called a timeout to draw up a play designed for freshman Mylik Wilson, who set a career-high with 17 points. But, South Alabama finally switched to man defense and used its advantage of fouls to give to stifle any opportunity UL had to get into its set. When the Cajuns finally were able to get a shot off, Jalen Johnson’s shot was blocked with four seconds to play.
“Coach (Marlin) had drawn up a really good play that Mylik was fouled on,” Russell said. “Then we had another drawn up (similar to one) we used in the (Sun Belt Conference) tournament last year. So, I felt like they kind of knew what to expect in that situation.
“But they guarded us well and we tried to get what we could out of it.”
Johnson, who entered the game as the Cajuns’ leading scorer, struggled Thursday night and scored only four points.
Despite that, Wilson, Dou Gueye and Russell kept the Cajuns afloat and seemed to find a way to make shots that kept UL in the game.
“They were penetrating the gaps (with their zone defense) so I was open for shots,” Wilson said.
With Troy coming in to town Saturday, Russell can’t help but to focus on team unity as being the force that will drive the Cajuns to end their losing streak.
“It’s just pure toughness,” he said. “We’re just trying to overcome this adversity and not let it divide us. We’ve already got a lot of injuries and we’re not sure what’s doing on with (Wesley). The good teams really come together in these times.”