The UL Ragin’ Cajuns will begin a stretch of four out of next five games on the road, making the charge at a Sun Belt tournament spot even tougher.
Currently, coach Bob Marlin’s Cajuns are 10-15 overall and 5-9 in league play, or tied with Troy for the 10th and final qualifying spot with a win over the Trojans in their back pocket.
That stretch begins at 7 p.m. Thursday against South Alabama at the Mitchell Center in Mobile, Ala.
On paper, a Thursday game could theoretically be UL’s best chance of notching wins these days with a shorthanded backcourt.
“Sometimes maybe,” Marlin said. “A lot of people ask me why we don’t play our home games at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon like a lot of other people in the league do. I’ve always enjoyed the Saturday night crowd that we have, even going up against Mardi Gras balls, but I like the teams to wait and I like to give ourselves more rest, especially when you’re shorthanded.
“Monroe’s going through the same thing and they play their games early and I think it is a factor.”
For the record, Saturday’s game at Troy is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Naturally, Marlin went on to say the Cajuns “got to be able to play Thursday and Saturday and just balance it.”
Which is the point precisely. That balance is hard to find when you’re depleted in the backcourt.
Just a few weeks ago, guards Mylik Wilson and Cedric Russell were out with knee and foot injuries, respectively.
They were supposed to be on minute restrictions. Of course, then freshman reserve guard Calvin Temple pulled a quad and point guard Trajan Wesley remains out with concussion issues.
In last week’s two games, Russell played in 77 of the possible 80 minutes. Marlin said “that’s a lot to ask from a young man,” so the search continues for solutions.
“A good option in my mind would have been to Dou (Gueye) more at the three (small forward) and play a bigger lineup and maybe play Mason (Aucoin) a couple of minutes, but that’s really all we’ve got on the bench,” Marlin said.
Potential good news could be the progress of Wesley, who “had a good day Friday and Saturday,” but there’s no official update to his condition as the team headed to Alabama on Wednesday.
Through those roster difficulties, Thursday’s home upset of Georgia State was UL’s third win over a four-game stretch.
“Our team is playing better basketball,” Marlin said. “That’s the nice thing about these last couple of weeks. We’ve got to continue to get better, cut back on our turnovers and start making more shots and good things will happen to us.”
The South Alabama series has been one of the most competitive for the Cajuns. UL leads the overall series 31-29, which includes a 16-13 edge in Lafayette and a 13-12 deficit in Mobile, although the Jaguars have won the last two.
The Jaguars (14-11, 7-7) has been largely disappointing this season as the preseason pick to win the Sun Belt, but are riding a two-game winning streak thanks mostly to a 79-69 road win over Georgia Southern last Saturday.