LAFAYETTE — What a difference a few weeks makes.
Just two weeks ago, the Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball team was 1-3 in Sun Belt Conference play and three games under .500 overall. It had trouble shooting the ball and looked like it was going to struggle to meet hefty preseason expectations.
The team that will play Troy (6-12, 1-6) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday doesn’t look much like that team of two weeks ago. The Cajuns (8-8, 4-3) have won three consecutive games in convincing fashion to climb out of the cellar in the conference standings to their current position of fifth place.
Coach Bob Marlin said after an 0-2 road trip in Arkansas that he felt his team had turned a corner, regardless of the two losses. He has proved to be prophetic in that regard.
The Cajuns’ struggles on the road in the first two months of the season were well-documented. They lost their first eight games away from the Cajundome but turned that around with a pair of road wins against Georgia Southern and Georgia State.
They were one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country for much of those first two months. They started breaking out of that by making six of their first 10 shots from deep against Georgia Southern. In the next two games, at Georgia State and vs. South Alabama, the Cajuns made 11 and 10 shots from beyond the arc.
Its helped the Cajuns that guards Kasey Shepherd and Hayward Register have discovered their shooting strokes in recent games. During the Cajuns’ three-game winning streak, the duo has made 50 percent (21 of 42) of their 3-point attempts, combining for an average of 30 points per game.
“We make some shots, (and) everything’s a little bit easier,” Marlin said.
The trick will be keeping that going against the Trojans, who are surrendering the most points in the Sun Belt this season. Troy is giving up 78.3 points per game in conference play and has allowed at least 84 in four of its six conference losses.
Despite that, the Trojans have kept it close in most of their games, especially against the league’s upper-echelon teams. They lost by three against Arkansas State, six against Little Rock and four against Georgia State — three of the top four teams in the SBC standings.
Offensively, Troy is ranked fifth in the league at 74.7 points per game. Guard Wesley Person, last year’s Sun Belt Freshman of the Year, is leading the charge at 16.8 points per game.
“It seems like every night we play somebody, they’ve got an all-league guy,” Marlin said.
The Trojans could have the Freshman of the Year for the second straight year. Forward Jordon Varnado is averaging 15.7 points and 7.8 rebounds as the Trojans’ No. 2 scoring option.
Cajuns fans are encouraged to wear red for the matchup, which the school is calling a “Red Out” game.