If nothing else, the UL men's basketball team is going to be road-tested this season.
After going to Puerto Rico during the summer and playing in a tournament in North Carolina early on, coach Bob Marlin’s Cajuns hit the road again for a Thanksgiving week road trip.
It begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against SMU at Moody Coliseum in Dallas.
“Traveling can be a challenge for sure,” Marlin said.
For example, the team spent much of Monday dealing with a delayed flight.
The Mustangs are led by a familiar face in former Georgia State coach Rob Lanier, who took the SMU job in March after Tim Jankovich retired following last year’s 24-9 season that ended in the second round of the NIT.
“They’re good,” Marlin said of SMU. “They’ve got some new faces, but they’re going to be good. It might be a little similar to where we were last year.”
The Mustangs are 2-2 with wins over Texas A&M-Commerce 77-60 and Evansville 55-47 and losses at Dayton 62-54 and New Mexico 84-63.
SMU is led by 6-foot-3 Zhuric Phelps (17.8 points, 3.8 rebounds) and 6-3 Sam Houston transfer and Southland Conference Player of the Year Zach Nutall (14.5 points, 2.5 rebounds), as well as 6-9 Troy transfer Efe Odigie (8.0 points, 10.3 rebounds).
The third-leading scorer is Samuell Williamson, a 6-7 former McDonald’s All-American and Louisville transfer who is averaging 9.5 points, 8.0 rebounds.
The Mustangs also have transfers from Texas A&M, Alabama, Iowa State and Washington State on the roster.
“They’re big, very big upfront, but it’s their two guards (Phelps, Nutall) that make them go,” Marlin said. “Transition defense is going to be a big key to this game.”
Meanwhile, the Cajuns are riding the wave of a 4-0 start after defeating Louisiana Tech 94-88 Thursday in the Cajundome.
“It took a while for our defense to kick in, but we took their best shot and were still able to win against a really good basketball team,” Marlin said. “That’s what made that a special win.”
The Cajuns are led by the inside game of Jordan Brown (18.8 points, 7.0 rebounds) and Terence Lewis (16.0 points, 10.5 rebounds) in the early going.
Greg Williams (11.3 points, 3.5 rebounds) shined down the stretch in the Tech win at the free-throw line.
“I really liked the fact that Greg played so well down the stretch after being in foul trouble in the first half,” Marlin said. “Greg’s really been doing well in practice.”
Kentrell Garnett is UL’s other double-figures scorer at 10 points per game.
Because transition defense figures to play a big role, Marlin said he might have Jalen Dalcourt (7.3 points, 1.3 rebounds) or Michael Thomas (6.3 points) play bigger roles in this game.
It's only the third meeting between the two schools and first since 1987.
The Cajuns won the first one in 1970.