UL’s basketball team didn’t need any more injuries, and now the Ragin’ Cajuns will try to snap a six-game losing streak with their point guard likely unavailable.
Sophomore Trajan Wesley, who leads the Cajuns in assists and had a career-high 15 points Sunday against UC Santa Barbara, took a scary fall off South Alabama guard John Pettway’s shoulder early in the second half of Thursday’s 60-57 Sun Belt Conference loss to the Jaguars.
Wesley's head and shoulder hit the Cajundome court, and after being put on a back board, was wheeled off on a stretcher. His prognosis was unknown as of late Friday, but it’s likely he will miss at least Saturday’s home matchup against Troy.
“Losing Tra, it just really makes us try to come together more,” said guard Cedric Russell, who had 12 second-half points on Thursday on four 3-pointers after going 0 for 7 in the first half. “We’ve already got a lot of guys out due to injury, and we don’t know what’s going on with Tra yet.”
The Cajuns (5-9, 0-3) haven’t won since freshman standout Kobe Julien suffered his second major knee injury in three years in early December. Julien, who was averaging 12.8 points and 5.5 rebounds, became the third UL player lost for the season with knee injuries. Sophomore transfer Durey Cadwell had preseason knee surgery, and highly regarded freshman Javonne Lowery twisted a knee during the season-opening win over Loyola that also later required surgery.
UL has also been without senior guard P. J. Hardy (ankle) for the past two games, leaving only six healthy regular players.
Cajuns coach Bob Marlin was concerned enough that he brought aboard walk-on freshman guard Jaylon Williams of Franklin-Centerville at mid-term after Williams transferred back home from one semester of junior college. Williams played five minutes in Thursday’s loss, hitting one 3-pointer in two attempts.
“We always need guys to step up,” Marlin said. “South Alabama played all zone, and we played a lot of our guards. Jaylon was nervous I’m sure, but he did a good job for us. He’s worked hard in practice and can shoot the ball.”
The Cajuns didn’t lack for shot attempts Thursday, firing up a school-record-tying 41 attempts outside the arc but hitting only 12 against USA’s zone defense. The Cajuns were 4-of-21 on 3-pointers in the first half but only trailed 28-25.
“Last year they played some zone but a lot of man against us,” Russell said. “It surprised me too, they played zone the whole entire game until the last 30 seconds.”
“They’ve zoned us in the past, almost the entire games last year,” Marlin said. “They have been playing about 75 percent man in their last two conference games, but we worked on zone offense because we knew they would play it and that was their staple.
“That wasn’t by design. We shot 41 attempts because we settled. The design is to go inside-out and get the ball inside, and we didn’t do a good job of that.”
UL trailed by as many as 11 points at 42-31 with 15:43 left when Wesley was injured, but rallied to cut the deficit to three points twice. The last came on Russell’s fourth 3-pointer of the half that provided the final score.
“They were staying in the zone and sitting back,” said freshman Malik Wilson, who had a career high 17 points including five 3-pointers to go with seven rebounds. “We started penetrating the gaps so I was open for the shot.”
“Malik jumped up and shot the ball with confidence,” Marlin said. “He and Dou (Gueye, who had 14 points and nine rebounds) have given us two good games in a row. We need to build off that.”
Troy (5-9, 1-2) has lost three of its past four, including a 79-63 loss at UL-Monroe on Thursday, when Troy led at halftime over a ULM team that had gone a month without a victory. However, the one Trojans win in the past two weeks was an impressive 77-59 win over Sun Belt foe Coastal Carolina.
Marlin was concerned about Troy’s pressure game with his short-handed squad.
“They can press, and it could be an up-and-down game,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Troy shot 41 threes. They’ve been shooting a lot of them. It could be an interesting game after they lost at Monroe, but they’ll come in here ready to play, that’s for sure.”
Troy (5-9, 1-2) at UL (5-9, 0-3)
Saturday, 7 p.m., Cajundome, Lafayette
RADIO: KPEL-AM 1420, KHXT-FM 107.9 ONLINE: ESPN+
UL basketball story for SAT