There were a lot of things working against the UL Ragin’ Cajuns during their 85-80 come-from-behind victory over McNeese State on Saturday at the Cajundome.
For starters, there are nine newcomers on the squad, so the first few months of the season is going to be a major transition period anyway.
That’s complicated by the fact that one is already out for the season in Durey Cadwell, another is still out with an undisclosed medical issue in Tirus Smith, sophomore guard Trajan Wesley is nursing a foot injury and senior guard P.J. Hardy has been indefinitely suspended.
UL basketball coach Bob Marlin wants his newest point guard to stop and smell the roses on occasion.
The result is practicing with eight players, which makes it difficult to do 5-on-5 drills.
“We got off to a poor start,” UL coach Bob Marlin said. “That’s one of the things I was concerned about with having eight guys (in practice, games). We have to have everyone on the same page and everybody has to play good.
“The other night we have eight guys that played pretty well and I thought really contributed. Tonight we didn’t.”
Things got even tougher when key newcomers Kobe Julien and Dou Gueye got in foul trouble early on.
Before the Cajuns knew it, the visiting Cowboys had built a 29-18 lead with 4:15 left until halftime.
By the end of the night, UL men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin had some positive things to sink his teeth into after his Ragin’ Cajuns opened t…
“Foul trouble shaped the game a little bit,” Marlin said. “Dou (Gueye) got frustrated and came out with two quick fouls. Kobe had two quick fouls. We had to play through it. We talk about effort with execution. I thought we played really hard.
“We had great effort in the first half, but we couldn’t get a bucket. We couldn’t make a shot at the goal, we couldn’t make a shot from the 3-point line and we couldn’t get to the free throw line.”
The Cajuns hit only 35.3 percent in the first half.
“We weren’t getting into the offense,” Marlin said. “We were holding the ball. We weren’t moving the ball. They changed defenses. They did some things that got us on our heels a little bit.
“As a coach, you always want the first couple of shots to go in. That kind of relaxes the guys and that didn’t happen tonight.”
The solution came in two stages.
It didn’t take very long for the 2019-20 UL Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball team to learn what the primary emphasis of the upcoming season is g…
The first one came in four 3-pointers in the final 2:37 of the first half — with Julien, Calvin Temple, Kristian Lafayette and Jalen Johnson all getting into the act.
“Those three 3s were big,” Temple said. “We were down by like 10. I felt like it picked up the rhythm for the team. It amped us up and got us going.”
The second part came when junior guard Cedric Russell took over the game with a trio of 3-pointers early in the second half to give the Cajuns a 56-41 lead with 11:36 left to play.
“Me and the team talk a lot and the guys look to me for a lot of leadership,” Russell said. “They understand when it’s time for me to amp it up. We’ve got scorers. We can get scoring from all over, but in games like this, guys looks more towards me for the leadership and the experience of scoring on this level. I just answered the call tonight.”
Russell finished with a game-high 22 points, along with five rebounds and four assists.
Of the nine newcomers on UL’s 2019-20 men’s basketball team, none know exactly how much offense was lost off last year’s squad as much as the …
“I just took it on myself,” Russell said. “The coaches and I were talking this past week and the first game, we’ve got a lot of new faces and young guys … I just kind of took the backseat and let them guys get their feet wet and have fun out there doing it.
“I remember my first time doing it. I knew tonight was going to be a much tougher battle than Tuesday, so I definitely had to amp it up.”
Jalen Johnson also played a huge role with 21 points, seven rebounds and three steals.
Julien finished with 15 points, five boards and two assists, while Gueye managed to collect 11 points and six boards in just 19 minutes due to foul trouble.
“We’ll take the win,” Marlin said. “We’re excited to come back on top.
“I was proud of our guys. It wasn’t quite the football game in Conway the other night. It wasn’t a dominant performance, but it was a good win for our team.”