His team allowed 91 points Saturday in what became a key Sun Belt Conference victory. That came on the heels of Georgia State rolling up 106 points two nights earlier, handing UL-Lafayette its first and only conference loss of the season.
But coach Bob Marlin insists his Ragin’ Cajuns had a solid defensive effort Saturday in its 102-91 victory at Georgia Southern, the Sun Belt’s third-place team that was playing on its home court.
“We played much better defensively at Georgia Southern, despite the score,” Marlin said. “I don’t worry about points in games that there’s a lot more possessions. The more possessions you have, the more points are going to be scored, and we knew both of those games were going to be high-scoring.”
That will likely not be the case at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, when the Cajuns (21-4, 11-1) play their first home game in 19 days and take on slow-and-easy Texas State (14-12, 7-6). In fact, Marlin guaranteed that Thursday’s game wouldn’t be in triple figures on either side.
“Unless we play about eight overtimes,” he said.
UL-Lafayette ranks 19th nationally in scoring (84.0) and 10th in scoring margin (plus-14.3), and they’re outscoring Sun Belt opponents by almost 17 per game. They hit that mark and more Jan. 20 when they went into San Marcos and beat Texas State 80-55.
That 25-point loss sticks out for the Bobcats, whose other five Sun Belt losses are a combined 15 points — two of them in overtime. TSU is allowing opponents just 61.5 points per game in Sun Belt play, but in the January meeting, the Bobcats struggled to keep up against a team that has more 80-point games than all but four teams nationally (North Carolina, BYU, Duke and Gonzaga) over the past four seasons.
“The first time we played them, they were 6-1 and off to their best start in 14 years, and we went over there and played really well,” Marlin said. “Now they’re losing the close games they were winning earlier in the year. With all that, we know we’re going to get their best shot.”
The Cajuns got Georgia State’s best shot last Thursday, with the Panthers’ 54.4 shooting percentage the highest any Sun Belt team and the second-highest that any foe has hit this season. No other Sun Belt team has made it to the 50 percent mark from the field.
“Our defensive execution was not great at Georgia State,” Marlin said. “We call our film session the good, the bad and the ugly, and Friday morning it was pretty ugly. But I knew they’d come back with great focus, and we got back to our strengths and we were more solid.”
Despite the 91 points — the third-highest total against the Cajuns this year — Georgia Southern was only 27-of-62 (43.5 percent) from the floor.
Marlin also pointed to two other defense-oriented numbers, with the Eagles only totaling nine assists on 27 made baskets and getting outrebounded 52-28. UL-Lafayette’s plus-24 advantage was its biggest of the season.
“We’d challenged our guys,” Marlin said of the rebounding battle after the Cajuns were outrebounded Thursday for the only time this year in league play. “That number shows something about our energy and how guys were ready to play against a good Georgia Southern team.”
Bryce Washington had 18 points and 13 rebounds in that win, and became the fourth Cajun and Sun Belt player to reach 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career. Washington goes into Thursday’s game fourth among active Division I players in career rebounds (1,013) and tied for sixth in career double-doubles (34).
The weekend games separated the Cajuns and Georgia State (10-3) from the rest of the Sun Belt. Texas State is in a three-way tie for third with Georgia Southern and Texas-Arlington, the Cajuns’ Saturday night opponent. They are all at 7-6 with five games remaining.
Finishing in the league’s top four insures a first-round bye in the Sun Belt tournament March 7-11 in New Orleans.