What to know about Ragin' Cajuns basketball heading into Sun Belt home games

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Coming off two Sun Beltwins, Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns basketball (7-5, 2-2) is set to play its next two at the Cajundome.

UL hosts Arkansas State (10-3, 1-0) on Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN+) and Little Rock (6-7, 1-0) on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN+).

The Ragin’ Cajuns won 77-55 last Thursday at Appalachian State, then beat Coastal Carolina 65-64 behind Kobe Julien’s 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds left Saturday.

Here’s what to know as UL prepares to play six of its next eight at  home:

PREVIEW:5 things know about UL basketball before 2021-22 season opener

Richards out, Jones gone

Isaiah Richards won't play during the second semester, coach Bob Marlin said. Asked whether the matter was academics-related or health-related, Marlin declined comment.

Part of a four-person big-man rotation, the absence of Richards (4 points, 4.3 rebounds 12.5 minutes per game)  should mean more minutes for Jordan Brown, Theo Akwuba and Dou Gueye.

Marlin also said Antwann Jones (2.1 ppg) left the program. He didn't say why. Jones, who played previously at Creighton and Memphis, had found a place in the perimeter rotation.

Jordan Brown, shown here during a Dec. 14 game at Houston, is UL's leading scorer so far this season at 14.8 points per game.

Brown rolling

Brown has been on a tear, scoring a game-high 20 at Coastal Carolina and a team-high 16 at Appalachian State. The former Arizona and Nevada big man is UL’s only double-digit scorer, averaging 14.8 per game and a team-high 8.8 rebounds.

He's scored in double digits in five straight games, including a season-high 30 in a Dec. 11 loss at Louisiana Tech, and his scoring presence is much-needed with injury and illness hitting hard.

Akwuba back, Au returning

Akwuba, the 2021 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, returned last week after missing four games (foot). He had a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double in his first game back, and his low-post presence is much-needed with Richards unavailable.

Meanwhile, Marlin said Brayan Au – UL’s starting point guard much of last season – should return Thursday. Au, coming off two surgeries to the same knee, has been limited to two games this season. He missed UL’s last five after spraining an ankle.

COVID-19 issues

Marlin missed last week's games after testing positive for COVID-19. Assistant coach Brock Morris filled in and is now 4-0 with Marlin out, including last season.

Five Cajuns – Gueye, Richards, Greg Williams Jr., Kentrell Garnett and Jalen Dalcourt – also missed both games with COVID-19 issues. Guard Ty Harper responded with 12 points at Appalachian State and freshman forward Joe Charles scored nine at Coastal Carolina. Marlin is hopeful Gueye, Williams, Garnett and Dalcourt can return Thursday.