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UL forward Theo Akwuba (10), shown here going up high for a rebound against Xavier, is going to face a big challenge inside at Indiana on Sunday.

After giving up 72 points to Xavier in Wednesday’s victory, the UL Ragin’ Cajuns were well aware their defensive effort didn’t meet the team’s standard.

“We already knew before the coaches even came in, ‘Hey we’ve got to step it up on defense,’” center Theo Akwuba said. “We know we can score the ball, but defense is what’s going to win us a championship. That’s our biggest emphasis.”

There’s also this matter of the Cajuns traveling to meet the Indiana Hoosiers at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Assembly Hall in Bloomington on the Big Ten Network.

Of course, UL coach Bob Marlin had a few other items to add to the list after Wednesday’s 84-72 win.

“It’s everything,” Marlin said. “Got to be better defensively, we’ve got to rebound better, we’ve got to take care of the ball and we’ve got to make our free throws. We’re going to have to make shots.

“The game is going to be physical. We didn’t finish (Wednesday) when the game was physical around the goal. So we’ve got to improve in all areas.”

Both teams are 3-0. The Hoosiers also played Wednesday, holding off St. John’s 76-74. Indiana is led by 6-foot-9 preseason All-American forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the win.

“Our coaches think he’s the second-best post player in the country,” Marlin said.

Fortunately, the Cajuns do have more size than most mid-majors these days with 6-11 Akwuba, 6-11 Jordan Brown and 6-10 Isaiah Richards.

“Most definitely having another big like JB out there takes a lot of pressure off,” Akwuba said. “It’s not as easy to double, because there’s another big right there. It’s an easy dump-off pass.

“JB has been a very big addition to this team. He’s starting to contribute right out the gate.”

The other big thing is this matchup is the winning tradition Indiana basketball brings to the sport. The Hoosiers’ national titles include the undefeated season of 1976, as well as 1981 and 1987 — all well before any of UL’s players were born.

So does playing at Indiana still mean something to them?

“I think so. Maybe not as much as the coaches do, but they certainly understand that IU is one of the blue bloods,” Marlin said. “This is a good opportunity for our guys to go play and learn some tradition about our game.”

Jalen Dalcourt said the Cajuns sticking together is going to be a key factor in the quest for an upset road win.

“Going against them is going to be a big challenge,” Dalcourt said. “That’s basically a tournament team right there, so that’s really going to challenge us to see how we handle that tough task. I’m really looking forward to see how we’re going to step up and how we handle it.

“ That atmosphere is crazy there. That’s definitely gong to be a big challenge for us.”


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.