LAFAYETTE — Little Rock’s national rankings look a little daunting unless the eye is trained to find weaknesses.
The Trojans enter Thursday’s game against visiting Louisiana-Lafayette ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (55.6 points per game), No. 6 in defensive field goal percentage (36.5 percent), No. 2 in free-throw percentage (78.4 percent) and No. 8 in turnover margin (plus-5.7). All of those numbers describe a fundamentally sound team.
But Ragin’ Cajuns coach Bob Marlin sees these numbers: No. 288 in total rebounds per game (34.1) and No. 211 in rebounding margin (minus-0.6). That weakness falls in a category of strength for the Cajuns, who rank No. 14 nationally in rebounds per game (42.9) and No. 31 in rebounding margin (plus-7.2).
“We can beat them on the glass,” Marlin said. “That’s an area we’ll try to expose them in.”
Figuring prominently should be senior forward Shawn Long, who leads the Sun Belt Conference in offensive (4.0) and defensive (8.2) rebounds per game — but that’s nothing new.
“To be honest, I think that (we have the advantage) going into every game,” Long said. “It’s just being confident, not only in my rebounding but in the guys around me. I think we have the advantage every night; it’s just up to us to take advantage of that. You can have the advantage going into it but not take care of it. It’s easy to lose it.”
This will be the last year the Cajuns will have to prepare for Little Rock guard Josh Hagins, and they’re thankful for that.
Though Hagins is generally not known as a scorer, the Shreveport native has put up some big games against the Cajuns.
“Being from Shreveport ... he always came in with a chip on his shoulder against us,” Marlin said. “We’ll have to do some things to try to speed them up a little bit. He’s a very good player when he gets comfortable, and he’s been comfortable pretty much all year.”
Hagins is averaging 11.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.6 points this season, numbers that fall right in line with his career averages. In six career games against the Cajuns, Hagins is averaging 15.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
Cajuns sophomore forward Bryce Washington has been dealing with a knee injury for a few weeks, but Marlin said he doesn’t see it being an issue for the time being.
“Bryce is good, as far as I know,” Marlin said.
Washington sat out the Cajuns’ exhibition game against Spring Hill last week to rest the knee but then played a team-high 35 minutes against Appalachian State on Saturday.
Marlin’s heart did start racing a bit Monday morning when he saw a call coming in from his medical trainer. The call wound up being to inform him that freshman Jerekius Davis, who is redshirting this year, had broken his hand.
Now that the Cajuns are in their more regimented conference schedule, they’ll have to quickly get used to the feeling of playing two games in three days again.
Marlin said the Cajuns did as much prescouting as they could on their Saturday opponent, Arkansas State.
“Both scouting reports are done,” Marlin said. “We’re just following up on Arkansas State, and we’ll certainly watch their game on Friday that they play Thursday against Monroe.”