It was certainly a mixed bag in terms of performance and results for the Ragin' Cajuns men’s and women’s basketball teams on the road Thursday night.
The bottom line for now is coach Bob Marlin’s men’s squad went to frigid Laramie, Wyoming, and suffered a frustrating 69-61 overtime loss to the Cowboys, while coach Garry Brodhead’s women led throughout for a 65-60 road win over New Orleans at Lakefront Arena.
Going on the road can often be an exercise in team building for a college basketball team.
Those results leave the UL men at 3-2 on the season, while the women are off to a 4-1 start.
But if you peel back a few layers from both the win and the loss, there’s both encouraging and potentially troubling signs for each squad.
For those worried about where the points were going to come from on Marlin’s young squad, Thursday’s loss didn’t dampen those fears. All around, the Cajuns had the worst shooting night of the Marlin era, hitting only 38.6% of their field goals, 17.4% from 3-point land and shockingly only 46.4% of their free throws.
When you lose in overtime and only make 13 of 28 free throws, that’s the height of frustration. Those numbers were especially stunning after UL made 28 of 32 at the line, including its final 22 attempts, in beating Youngstown State 73-61 at the Cajundome six days earlier.
It’s still the early season.
UL was outrebounded 39-37, but that’s not overly bad. The Cajuns committed 15 turnovers to 16 for Wyoming. In a bit of irony, the Cajuns’ bench actually outscored the Cowboys 12-7, considering how shorthanded UL’s bench has been so far this season.
Jalen Johnson had his first subpar game of the season with eight points and four rebounds in 38 minutes. No big concern, though. That’s going to happen here and there.
Freshman Kobe Julien led the way with 15 points and seven boards in 36 minutes, while junior guard Cedric Russell finished with 13 points, three rebounds and two steals in 40 minutes. Russell also hit the jumper with 24 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
UL basketball coach Bob Marlin said Kobe Julien was still having vision issues Friday night, after getting hit in the eye Tuesday in the Ragin…
Meanwhile, Dou Gueye fouled out with 11 points and eight rebounds. Foul trouble could be a reoccurring issue in his case throughout the season for the Cajuns.
Out of all of those numbers, the long-term concern — in this era of load management — might be the high number of minutes the top players on this team are going to have to play to stay competitive in the Sun Belt race.
On the positive side of things, though, if the team continues to play defense like that, any better level of offense might produce more wins than some expect down the road. Something tells me last year's squad would have lost that game by 20 points with those shooting percentages. That extra emphasis on defense seems to be paying off already.
On the women’s side, it’s always nice to see a team lead from start to finish in a competitive situation. Again, UNO defeated Ole Miss on the road in its previous game, so the Privateers are no pushover.
Junior center Ty’Reona Doucet continued her hot start with 21 points, 12 rebounds and three steals in 36 minutes. It’s good to see her be productive in that many minutes, considering her lingering injury issues since last season.
For most of Sunday afternoon’s nonconference matchup against Southeastern, the UL women’s basketball team just couldn’t get a shot to fall.
Sophomore guard Brandi Williams carried a big load as well with 21 points, three rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes behind 3-for-3 shooting from the 3-point land. Williams might end up being the best perimeter shooter this program has had in decades.
As encouraging as those numbers were, though, the question still lingers, who will be a consistent third or fourth scorer for the Cajuns?
The next leading scorer in the win was Jasmine Thomas with six points and then Skyler Goodwin with four.
That’s not a healthy balance. Once Sun Belt play begins, that’ll be too much pressure on Doucet and Williams to maintain and too easy for opposing defenses to strategize against.
Fortunately, it’s still early enough for consistent complementary scorers to emerge.
Overall, it was a pretty hopeful evening of UL basketball, especially on the road, laced with a layer of frustration.