Wesley returned for UL, but more Ragin' Cajuns are down
In a season full of setbacks, comebacks and lousy luck, it’s been more of the same lately for the UL basketball team.
The bad news for the Ragin’ Cajuns last week was that with freshman forward Chris Spenkuch already out, they lost starting big man Tirus Smith to a tough tumble.
The good news was that they got back backup point guard Trajan Wesley, who missed 11 straight games with a concussion sustained in an early January home loss to South Alabama.
Wesley, who had to be carted off the floor from the game in which he hurt his head and back, returned for last Thursday night’s 78-75 loss at, of all places, South Alabama.
That provided some much-needed relief for starting point Cedric Russell and UL’s other guards, and it paid off when UL won 81-77 on Saturday night at Troy.
Wesley logged 10 scoreless minutes at South Alabama, allowing Russell to go 35 minutes instead of the full 40 like he did in a recent loss to Georgia Southern, and 25 with four points and a couple assists at Troy, where Russell, who been playing despite sore feet, again went 35.
“Excited to have Trajan Wesley back for some spot minutes,” said UL coach Bob Marlin, whose 11-16 Cajuns are now off until playing their third outing of three in a row on the road Saturday afternoon at Sun Belt Conference cellar-dweller UL Monroe.
“(He) gave us a boost off the bench, but, more important, it gave us a chance to rest Cedric (Russell) and P.J. (Hardy) and Mylik (Wilson), and go small if needed.
“And both these teams played with a lot of guards,” Marlin added, “so it worked out that we had enough guards to play.”
Hardy also played 40 minutes against Georgia Southern, but the senior was able to score 15 points in 24 minutes at Troy on a night four Cajuns scored in double figures, with Jalen Johnson leading the way with 20, Smith adding 17 and Wilson 11.
Marlin thinks Wesley should be good to go for the rest of the season, which with four games left has the Cajuns — currently 10th in the 12-team Sun Belt — still looking to secure a spot in the 10-team SBC Tournament.
“He’s physically in a good place,” Marlin said, “and has worked hard to come back.
“He didn’t play as good as he’s capable of doing. He had a couple breakdowns. Going so fast, he ran off and left the ball a couple time against Troy. … Missed three free throws, which surprised me.
“But he’s doing fine,” Marlin added, “and he’s gonna definitely help us down the stretch.”
After playing at ULM, UL has regular season-games remaining next week at home against Arkansas State and league-leader Little Rock and on March 3 against Coastal Carolina at the Cajundome.
The Cajuns, meanwhile, last week were without not only Spenkuch, who sustained a concussion during practice early in the week, but also walk-ons guards Jaylon Williams, a freshman who did not travel due to a virus, and senior Mason Aucoin, who had to stay behind to deal with Marlin called a must-attend “academic appointment.”
Reserve point Calvin Temple, who has been dealing with a quad injury, didn’t play in either road game last week.
Then Smith got hurt with about six-and-a-half minutes to go in the game at Troy.
Marlin said Smith “landed on his shoulder and hit his head on the floor.”
Marlin wasn’t certain Monday if he’d get back either Smith or Spenkuch for the game against ULM, but – with the Cajuns idle Thursday – he was happy to have six days off between games.
Spenkuch is doubtful.
But Marlin was hoping the extra rest would help Smith, who missed four games at the start of the season due to a medical matter, get ready for Saturday.
“He’s sore,” the Cajuns coach said. “He’s okay.
“His right shoulder is bothering him a little bit, but … he’s taken charges, he’s been on the floor and he’s a tough young man. I think this time off this week will help him recover.
“Not sure (about Spenkuch),” Marlin added. “I don’t know if it will be anytime soon from the report I got (Monday) morning.”
The latest injuries add to a long list for the Cajuns, who’ve lost three players – Durey Cadwell, Javonne Lawson and Kobe Julien – to season-ending knee surgeries since the offseason.
They’ve had several players in and out of the lineup with medical issues of all sorts, from concussions to an ankle sprain that cost Hardy seven games to a sore knee that cost Wilson four in which UL went 0-4.
“It’s been a challenge, for sure,” Marlin said.
“But our guys have been positive. Our coaching staff’s been positive. I’ve tried to coach the coaches a little bit, and they’ve done a tremendous job keeping everything moving in the right direction and having solid practices and keeping everyone’s spirits up and playing.”