LAFAYETTE — As senior forward Brian Williams prepped for his first game against Cajuns rival Georgia State, his teammates filled him in on what to expect.
“The guys have just been telling me that the game’s really intense,” Williams said. “It’s a rivalry game, it’s high-energy. It’s emotional in a sense that everybody will be playing their best game.”
Williams will likely need one of his better efforts, because he’s getting thrown into the rivalry fire right away. University of Louisiana at Lafayette men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin gave Williams the assignment of defending Sun Belt Player of the Year R.J. Hunter — at least at first.
“Brian’s done a good job the last couple of games, certainly on (Troy’s Musa Abdul-Aleem), and then he did a good job on (Frank Eaves) up at Appalachian State,” Marlin said.
Abdul-Aleem and Eaves combined to go 4-for-18 from the field against the Cajuns.
“Hunter poses some different problems,” Marlin said. “We’ll see how the game flows, and how that matchup will continue. But Brian will get the first opportunity at it.”
And that is an opportunity that Williams is looking forward to, even though Hunter is in the midst of a shooting slump.
“It should be fun, man,” Williams said. “He’s a good player, a good shooter. He’s not shooting the ball well right now. I’m just hoping he doesn’t get started (Thursday).
Williams had a chance to catch some tape of Hunter’s game before Wednesday’s practice, and Hunter’s shooting ability immediately stood out.
“Catch and shoot,” Williams said, describing Hunter’s game. “They run all kinds of screens for him, all kinds of plays for him. Whether he’s hitting or not, that’s where they’re looking to get a lot of offense from.”
Praise for Washington
Marlin continued to compliment freshman Bryce Washington for his standout play against Appalachian State, when he did much more than score a career-high 14 points.
Marlin said his son called him after the game and asked him what Washington did so well against the Mountaineers, and Marlin said this was his answer: “‘Well, let’s count the ways; he scored, rebounded, blocked shots, he stole passes, he defended, he led, he changed the game on both ends of the floor.’”
Washington may be a freshman, but Marlin said his maturity — both mental and physical — stood out even as the Cajuns were recruiting him as a sophomore out of St. Augustine High School in New Orleans.
Team in transition
In Williams’ opinion, the key to the offense’s explosion in recent weeks has been the defense, particularly the defense’s ability to force turnovers.
“It sounds cliché, but it starts with our defense,” Williams said. “In the half court, you can’t really control makes or misses. But when the defense starts the break, we get a lot of easy buckets and we get a lot of easy buckets often. That’s where a lot of our offense comes from, layups and dunks.”
Forcing turnovers won’t be an easy task against Georgia State, though. The Panthers are turning the ball over only 10.9 times per game and have the seventh-best turnover margin in the country.