UL guard Jalen Dalcourt (5), shown here blocking the shot of West Florida guard Brandon Burford (14), is hoping to add perimeter shooting to his excellent defensive start to the season.

The UL men’s basketball team will host the Xavier Gold Rush from New Orleans at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday in the Cajundome before embarking on a rugged road trip next week at Indiana and Marshall.

The Ragin' Cajuns are 2-0 after Friday’s road win over Southern Miss, and the Gold Rush is off to a 6-1 start after Monday’s 54-50 road win over William Carey in Hattiesburg.

“It's always a challenge early in the season when you’re playing a team with more games under their belt,” UL coach Bob Marlin said. “They just have more experience. They’ve got good guard play. Their coaches do an outstanding job.”

NAIA Xavier was 14-5 during last year’s shortened pandemic season, but enjoyed a stellar 27-6 campaign in 2019. Its only loss of this season is a 67-45 loss at Alcorn State.

“Very strong guard team,” Marlin said. “They’re going to play multiple defenses. It’s an experienced team that will play hard. We’ll have to be ready to attack their defenses, whatever they throw at us.”

Fifth-year senior Rayshawn Mark is the leading scorer with at 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists a game. Inside, Xavier is led by former Lafayette High 6-9 post Corey Dunning, as well as 6-10 Eastern Washington transfer Jalen King. Also, former Lafayette Christian guard TJ Jones of Opelousas is in Xavier’s guard rotation.

The Gold Rush will face a Cajuns squad that is exhibiting defensive prowess in the early going. UL is giving up a nation’s best 46 points a game so far.

Marlin said he wants to see the Cajuns take better advantage of scoring opportunities to complement the encouraging start on the defensive end.

For instance, UL is allowing only 15.8% shooting from 3-point land, but the Cajuns are hitting only 31.1% themselves.

“(Lafayette High product) Jalen Dalcourt played really well defensively,” Marlin said. “He’s done a nice job for us there, but he has not shot the ball like he’s capable. He’s an outstanding shooter and gotten off to a poor start.

“Greg Williams has been solid. I thought Greg stuffed the stat sheet again the other night. He did leave about eight points out there with some layup and dunk opportunities.”

Kobe Julien continues to recover from an illness that hampered him last week, while Brayan Au’s return remains uncertain.

In Au’s absence, the Cajuns are leaning heavily on Williams as the primary floor leader.

“He’s still working his way back,” Marlin said of Au’s timetable. “Initially, he and Greg played together in the backcourt. That was the idea. The thing that Brayan does that we really need is he gets us easy baskets. He really can pass the ball, and he has a good feel for the game.

“He’s shooting the ball well in practice. So we’ll have to wait and see. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, we can get them back there. We just have to let it run its course.”

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