WATCH: Marlin Recaps Week, Previews Trip To Georgia
Louisiana is in the middle of a grueling stretch in conference play, and Head Coach Bob Marlin is trying to settle the ship and make sure the team is heading in the right direction.
The Ragin' Cajuns are 4-4 in the month of January, and they're coming off two straight weeks of split. One game they're up, and the next time they hit the court they're down. They picked up a big win over Little Rock on Saturday, then Arkansas State lit them up on Monday.
"Played well [against Little Rock] from start to finish, good performance from our guys," Marlin said, but on the other hand, "We dropped our heads a little bit [against Arkansas State] and got away from our defensive gameplan, and we gave up a bunch of threes."
Conference play is never exactly smooth sailing, but Marlin realizes his team is sitting 7th in the Sun Belt right now. If they want to make a run in the conference tournament, they need to start playing better basketball.
"Right in the middle of conference season, we have to continue to push on," Marlin explained. He added, "We have to try to string some victories in a row and prepare ourselves for the conference tournament."
Inconsistency has been an issue, with individuals and on defense. It's Marlin's jobs to get players like Johnathan Stove to bring their best game on a regular basis, but the defensive portion is a bit more difficult when teams come in and shoot 70 percent in a half, like Arkansas State did on Monday night.
It also doesn't help that at this point in the season players are trying to push through pain. Bryce Washington is dealing with tendinitis in his knee and a cracked knee cap, and he banged it up again this weekend.
Washington's injuries aren't keeping him off the court, but they're limiting his performance.
"He's trying to fight through it, but he wasn't himself last night, defensively more than anything," Marlin said.
The bumps and bruises of the season, along with the inconsistency from Stove, forced Marlin to give more minutes to a couple younger players. PJ Hardy is seeing more of the floor to help Jay Wright in the backcourt, and Jerekius Davis is starting to heat up on offense with more minutes.
Davis was one of the stars of Saturday's win against Little Rock. He went 7-of-10 from the floor and splashed home three shots from beyond the arc, and he's starting to play better defense too.
"He's getting some extended minutes now, and he's making the most of it," Marlin said proudly.
They will need all the firepower they can get on the trip to Georgia this week, where they are looking for revenge against two teams that came into the Cajundome and handed them their first losses of the season on their home court.
Louisiana starts off their trip Saturday in Atlanta against a Georgia State team that dominated them for 40 minutes in their prior meeting. The Panthers broke 100 points and got contributions from a lot of different players, and Marlin wants to make sure they don't allow them to torch the defense again.
"We need to make sure that they don't get off to a good start shooting the ball in Atlanta," Marlin warned.
After playing in Atlanta, they head to Statesboro to take on Georgia Southern, who stole a win right out from underneath them in Lafayette. Georgia Southern has two of the best guards in the conference, so Marlin's team better come war ready.