WATCH: Marlin Breaks Down Weekend, Previews Road Ahead
The Ragin' Cajuns sit in ninth place in the Sun Belt Conference, but they're still fighting for a better position before the tournament begins.
Head Coach Bob Marlin admitted the team is getting everybody's best shot this season. In Saturday's loss to Troy, the Cajun defense allowed over 100 points for the third time this year. On Monday against South Alabama, the shots fell on their side in a 80-72 win. Marlin described the luck of the draw simply.
"It's amazing how when shots go in things get easier," Marlin said.
It's been a season full of ups and downs for Louisiana, especially on defense. Over the next two weeks, the Ragin' Cajuns will be playing against more than just their opponents too. They will be fighting the schedule.
After playing in Monroe this Saturday, the schedule gets brutal for Louisiana. It starts with a trip to Coastal Carolina a week from Saturday, then they turn around and make the crazy trip to Boone to play on Monday. From there, they fly back to Lafayette on Mardi Gras, get one day of rest then play Texas State on essentially one day's rest.
Marlin said he and the administration fought with the conference to get the games moved, but the Sun Belt brass didn't budge. It's an exhausting stretch of games at a crucial point in the season, and Marlin knows the difficulty of the next two weeks.
"It puts us at a huge disadvantage. It's our most difficult road trip of the year," Marlin said.
To get through this stretch, Louisiana will have to lean on their leaders. Thankfully, they have two warriors leading the way.
Jay Wright is the only senior on the roster, and his hounding defense and "never say die" mentality rub off on the rest of the roster. In Monday's game against South Alabama, he reached a major milestone in his Cajun career.
Wright became the 44th player in program history to reach 1,000 points, and he did it in only three seasons.
"To score 1,000 points in three years is pretty impressive, and we're certainly proud of that," Marlin said. "Jay does a great job defensively, and he's done such a good job of seeing the floor this year."
Marlin continues to sing Wright's praises on and off the court, and sets an example for the rest of the team to follow on a daily basis.
There's another warrior fighting for success too. Bryce Washington is pushing through a lot of pain, but he's not letting it hold him back.
Washington's knee troubles have been well publicized this season, but he's still leading the Sun Belt in rebounding, and he's near the top of the nation's double-double leaders. Marlin said Washington sees athletic trainer B.J. Duplantis every day to help alleviate the pain, and he's using every medical resource possible to keep pushing through the injuries.
"He's continuing to rebound the ball, he's fighting through some injury as well," Marlin said. "His diligence to stay healthy is one of the main reasons he's been able to stay effective, and he's a winner."
Players like Washington and Wright force the rest of the team to step up. They can carry a lot of the load, but they will need help if the Ragin' Cajuns want to make a push heading toward the conference tournament.
If Louisiana can come out the other side of this two week stretch with a couple wins, it will provide some valuable momentum and a firmer handhold in the conference standings. It might not be March, but it's already time to survive and advance.