What to know about Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns basketball after 15 games

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Louisiana basketball has dropped two straight heading into a four-game homestand.

UL (8-7, 3-2 Sun Belt Conference) lost conference  games last week 83-73 at Texas-Arlington, snapping a three-game win streak, and 72-68 at Texas State.

The Ragin’ Cajuns are host to South Alabama (12-5, 2-2) on Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN+) at the Cajundome and Troy (12-5, 3-1) on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN+) before playing Georgia State and Georgia Southern next week.

Here’s what to know about the Cajuns after their first 15 games of the season:

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Illness, injuries

UL played last week without starting center Theo Akwuba and reserve guard Michael Thomas, who were left home.

The absences were the latest among many this month due to COVID-19. UL opened Sun Belt play without five players because of the virus, and coach Bob Marlin missed wins at Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina after testing positive.

Getting center Theo Akwuba back from COVID-19 issues should be big for the Ragin' Cajuns as they open a four-game homestand Thursday night against South Alabama at the Cajundome.

The Cajuns also dealt with injuries, but starting power forward Jordan Brown played the last two games after missing a Jan. 6 overtime win over Arkansas State due to an undisclosed “upper body” injury. Brown, a transfer from Arizona, is UL’s leading scorer (14.6 points per game) and rebounder (9.1 per game).

The Cajuns also got guard Brayan Au (sprained ankle) back for their last three games, but his minutes have been limited.

When he met with media members Monday, Marlin was hopeful UL would be at full strength Thursday.

A variety of issues

Defensive lapses, turnover issues, too many offensive fouls and inconsistent free-throw shooting all contributed to the two losses last week.

Akwuba, last season's Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, was out after also missing four straight games to end non-conference play due to a foot injury. 

The Cajuns missed his shot-altering presence, especially when UTA was 71.8%. UL also is without backup center Isaiah Richards this semester (undisclosed reasons).

'Tough out'

The Cajuns have ample depth.

But point guard Trajan Wesley, who’s started every Sun Belt game, and usual starting forward Kobe Julien are the only UL players who haven’t missed a game. At 28.4, Brown is the only player averaging  more than 25 minutes per game. And UL has used eight different starting lineup this season, including three different ones in five conference games, causing consistency issues as rotation combinations frequently change.

Yet Marlin likes what he has.

"This team does realize, and they know, how good they can be. They're confident, too," he said, "and we'll be a tough out in the conference tournament, I promise you that."