Cajuns Addressing Issues Before Sun Belt Tournament [VIDEO]
Two games separate the Ragin’ Cajuns from the Sun Belt Tournament, and Bob Marlin still has questions to answer.
A disappointing trip to the state of Alabama resulted in two losses, making it three out of the last four games ending in agony. Technically, you could say the Cajuns lost more than just games on their road trip because point guard Jay Wright left the Troy game with a double-dislocation to his finger.
Guard play continues to be the X-factor for the Cajuns, with Shawn Long demanding double and triple teams in the post. The Cajuns aren’t sure how long Wright will be out for (he met with doctors again Monday), but his coach said the finger was shaped like a Z when he left the court and went right to the hospital.
This isn’t your normal finger dislocation, from the way Marlin describes it.
“It went through the skin. He received seven stiches. It was not a pretty sight,” Marlin said.
Long is clearly the engine that drives the Cajuns, but Wright was the steering wheel at the point guard position.
Tiremone Williams (nicknamed Tutu by the team) stepping in and provided a spark in the win over Troy, scoring a career-high ten points and holding down the fort on the defensive end as well. Unfortunately, Williams and the rest of the guards couldn’t get a shot to fall against South Alabama the following game, creating cause for concern moving toward the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
Kasey Shepherd can hit shots and heat up in a hurry, but Marlin referenced inconsistent play from his scorer off the bench. Hayward Register has been ice cold all year. Elijah McGuire is providing solid energy, but can he be counted on to be more than just a situational performer?
Johnathan Stove, along with Williams, Shepherd, Register and McGuire, are going to have to take up the slack in the back court with Wright’s absence.
“All those guys are going to have to step up, We’re going to have to make some shots, for sure, and run the team,” Marlin said about losing Wright. “It will affect our guard play. We’ve got some depth but the guys we got have to step up and play. Next man up.”
Shot making continues to be an issue for a team that led the Sun Belt Conference from behind the arc last season.
Marlin kept calm all season, and this week he even used humor to describe the unfortunate shooting situation. He pointed out how odd it is that his team leads the conference in scoring, while shooting dead last from the three point line. Sometimes, you have to laugh to avoid crying. After watching his team shoot 2-15 from deep against South Alabama, Marlin decided to go with the lighthearted approach in his press conference. The message probably wasn’t as comedic in practice.
Missing shots also makes playing defense much harder. On the opposite side, things loosen up when you can push the pace and get runouts off turnovers. Typically improving on one end helps the other. Marlin is hoping that dynamic can help his team find the bottom of the bucket.
“I think it starts on the defensive end,” Marlin said. “If you get stops, you get in transition and you're running downhill."
Getting some easy buckets in transition would certainly help set a fire under his guards, which would go a long way helping out the Sun Belt Conference’s most dominant player.
Marlin said in his press conference that if they can figure things out in the backcourt, their team could become very dangerous in the Sun Belt Tournament because nobody else has Shawn Long. Long’s prolific presence in the post provides consistent, dependable scoring and more rebounds than a coach would ever ask a single player to rip down. The big man wants to lead his team to a conference championship and into the NCAA Tournament in his final go round, and his coach continues to be impressed with his progress.
Long answered any questions about his attitude and ups and downs off the court this season, while boosting his on court performance into monstrous realms. Marlin watched him grow from the minute he stepped on campus, and he’s still improving.
“He’s gotten better each year. He’s matured, his work ethic has improved,” Marlin said. “He’s even gotten better as a rebounder, if you can fathom that.”
Long will pass the baton to Bryce Washington in the post whenever he leaves, but he has two more regular season games to play before hopefully making his mark in tournament play. By the time he leaves, his name will be among some of the greatest big men to ever play the college game, and rightfully so.
Georgia State and Georgia Southern come into the Cajundome to close out the season, and they will get a heavy dose of Long. He will be playing in front of Cajun Nation for the last time at home, and Marlin asked the fans to pay him the respect he deserves by filling the stands.