WATCH: Bob Marlin Previews Big Matchup With Georgia
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns are winners of eight straight games, and they're taking all that momentum with them to Athens to play the Georgia Bulldogs.
It will be a major test for the Cajuns, facing a Georgia team that has top tier talent in the SEC. Head Coach Bob Marlin recognizes the firepower the Bulldogs bring to the table.
"It will be a tough challenge for us. They have two all conference players," Marlin said.
Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier are averaging 35 points per game, and Maten is also the leading rebounder (8.3 rpg) on the squad. They lead a team that comes in with an overall record of 5-3, but they're beatable.
While Georgia plays big, the Cajuns have been able to hurt teams with smaller, more versatile lineups all year. Coach Marlin pointed out that Johnathan Stove's ability to move to the power forward position allows them to run the floor effectively, and they're eighth in the country in scoring right now with their rapid pace on offense.
Jay Wright and Frank Bartley and Jay Wright are wreaking havoc at the guard position, along with Bryce Washington, who is also tied for the top spot in the country in double-doubles.
"We're going to be hard to beat if those guys score the ball like that," Marlin said.
The other player averaging double-figures for the Cajuns is only a freshman.
Justin Miller is still working on his rebounding, but he continues to show flashes of excellence on offense. His ability to pass the ball, drive against slower defenders and find his own shot make him dangerous on offense, and Marlin is excited about his development.
"Justin can score a lot of different ways, and we need him to be a factor," Marlin stated.
Marlin also pointed out another promising youngster, PJ Hardy. Hardy is learning how to adapt his game to collegiate competition, and he's providing valuable depth off the bench.
Hardy is the first guard off the bench for Marlin, and he's shooting over 50 percent from beyond the three point line as a freshman. The more he grows, the more Marlin can afford to rest Wright for the final push toward the postseason.
Marlin is proud of Hardy's attitude in his first year on the court, and he and the rest of the coaching staff are trying to unlock all of his potential.
"PJ has a bright future," Marlin said. "He continues to learn and we're pushing him every day."
Hardy could play a big part in the game against Georgia, as the Cajuns look to push the pace.
Georgia is a bigger team, relying on their post play to dominate opponents. On the opposite side, the Cajuns are flying up and down the floor and averaging over 90 points per game on offense. It's an awkward matchup for the Bulldogs and an appetizing game for the Cajuns, who bring a boatload of momentum into their fifth road game of the season.
The last piece of the puzzle is health. The Ragin' Cajuns aren't at full strength, but Marlin is remaining optimistic about getting the affected players ready enough to make an impact.
"We have a couple guys banged up, a couple guys that are sick. We're not 100 percent," Marlin said, singling out Miller, Bartley, Lorenz Stalkup and Kadavion Evans.
On a brighter note, Stove is still battling through a bone bruise, but he intends on playing through the pain.
The Ragin' Cajuns are picking up steam, and they're only three games away from the start of conference play. Plenty of people doubted their ability to bounce back after losing so many players, but they're exceeding expectations and setting themselves up for a solid run at a conference title.
Make sure you don't miss this team play against UNO in New Orleans, before the New Orleans Bowl, and back at home in the Cajundome against Pepperdine.