Cajuns' Tirus Smith remains suspended as regular season winds down
The revolving door continues to spin for coach Bob Marlin’s UL basketball team, and now it’s becoming a big problem.
The Ragin’ Cajuns — absent several guards earlier in the season due to injury and illness — lost Saturday at Sun Belt Conference cellar-dweller UL Monroe without starting big man Tirus Smith, who is suspended for undisclosed reasons.
Making matters worse, Marlin said Monday that the junior remains suspended.
“Tirus’ situation is what it is,” Marlin said. “He will not be back for the foreseeable future.”
With just three regular-season games remaining for the 11-17 Cajuns — Wednesday night at the Cajundome against Arkansas State, Saturday afternoon at Little Rock and Tuesday night at home against Coastal Carolina — that’s not a good thing.
UL also played at ULM without freshman big man Chris Spenkuch, who has been out due to a concussion.
The bright side for the Cajuns?
“There’s a chance we could get Chris back,” Marlin said.
Then there’s this:
Sophomore big man Kristian Lafayette, a sporadically used reserve, pitched in five points, 4 rebounds and a block during his 12 minutes at ULM.
“Kristian Lafayette did a good job for us, especially in the first half,” Marlin said. “He didn’t get as much time in the second half.
“But we (were) really pleased with Kristian in the game in Monroe.”
Where does that leave the Cajuns as far as a big goes?
Much like it did when guards Mylik Wilson, Cedric Russell, Trahan Wesley, P.J. Hardy, Calvin Temple and Mason Aucoin all were out at various times earlier this season, UL — which lost Durey Cadwell, Javonne Lowery and Kobe Julien to season-ending knee injuries early on — will have to rely more and more on its bench down the stretch.
Look too for big Due Gueye to be back in the starting lineup, as he was at ULM and at various other times this season.
He’s especially needed now that the Cajuns are without Smith, who was averaging 8.3 points, and 5.9 rebounds per game after coming back from a medical matter that cost him time at the start of the year.
Smith’s suspension is the second for the Cajuns in 2019-20, along with one Hardy for violation of undisclosed rules early in the season.
“We will continue to do it by committee inside and we will be outsized,” Marlin said. “Monroe used their strength inside against us, and (we) know that Arkansas State is strong inside too.
“They’re leading the league in free throws attempted and they’re gonna try to get us in foul trouble and go right at us, so that will be a challenge. Then (Sun Belt-leader) Little Rock has great size. They’re gonna hammer inside also.
“So we’re just gonna have to play smaller,” Marlin added. “We’re gonna have to fight through it and try to rebound the ball as best we can and use our speed and pace of play to help us on the offensive end.”
RAGIN’ CAJUNS BASKETBALL
UL (11-17, 6-11 in the Sun Belt) vs. Arkansas State (15-14, 7-11)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday
RADIO: KHZT 107.9 FM