What to know about Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns point guard problem before UL Monroe game

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

The UL basketball team’s five-game winning streak ended with two losses last weekend at Arkansas State and starting point guard Brayan Au sidelined.

That left the Ragin’ Cajuns (13-6, 7-5 Sun Belt) tied with Texas-Arlington for second in the Sun Belt Conference West Division behind Texas State (13-6, 7-3).

The Cajuns, playing a regular season-ending stretch with seven of 10 away from home, have six games remaining before the March 5-8 SBC Tournament in Pensacola, Florida.

Here’s what to know about UL before this week’s set with UL Monroe, which starts Thursday at the Cajundome (7 p.m., KPEL 96.5 FM and 1420 AM, ESPN+) and ends Saturday at ULM (4 p.m.).

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Brayan Au still dealing with injury

Au, who’s been dealing with a lingering knee injury, missed the second half of Friday’s game and all of Saturday’s game. He underwent knee surgery in October, then fell on his knee in January.

The Cajuns are calling Au “day-to-day.”

“He’s kind of been that way for a while. He’s in and out of practice,” assistant coach Brock Morris said. “(He’s) done a great job of coming in games, and it was evident (last) weekend that what he brings to our team does not always statistically correlate.”

Morris suggested Au may be facing surgery in the offseason, if not sooner.

“At this point it’s just about the managing the pain,” he said, “and trying to get him to the court if at all possible.”

UL point guard Brayan Au, shown here during a Nov. 28 game against Baylor in Las Vegas, is dealing with a lingering knee injury.

With Au out, Morris said UL “had to find new roles and get comfortable in those roles, and that took us a little bit of time ... before we figured that out.”

The Cajuns also have been without backup point guard Trajan Wesley (foot) all season, leaving combo guards Cedric Russell, Mylik Wilson, Ty Harper and Michael Thomas as options. The situation is less than ideal for a team that also lacked a true point guard when Wesley was unavailable at times last season.

“Their best attributes are probably scoring the ball and attacking the rim,” Morris said of the aforementioned four, “where Brayan and Trajan were more facilitators. … One of those four has got to take the team, take the role.

“I think right now you’re probably looking at what we did Saturday night, (which) was Mylik and Cedric took that dual role, Mylik probably being more of a point guard so Cedric could get some looks off the ball as well since he’s shooting the ball so well.

“That’s what we’re going to be diagnosing going forward,” he added, “is who gives us the best chance to win at that lead guard spot.”

More:Ragin' Cajun point guard options leave lots of ways UL can go

Cedric Russell on a real roll

Russell is shooting 40.7% from 3-point range, which ranks fourth among Sun Belt leaders, and 44.2% from the field (10th).

After scoring a season-high 30 points Saturday, he passed Randal Smith (1,300 from 1984-88) for 28th place on UL’s all-time scoring leaders list and now needs three points to pass Bryce Washington (1,319 from 2014-18) for 27th place.

The 30 is four shy of Russell’s career high, scored two seasons ago at Little Rock.

The senior from Alexandria’s Peabody Magnet High has hit double figures in 16 straight games, including 21 and 24 in road wins late last month en route to winning Sun Belt Player of the Week honors. Russell (18.6 points per game) is UL’s scoring leader this season and ranks third among SBC leaders behind South Alabama’s Michael Flowers (22.1) and Coastal Carolina’s DeVante Jones (20.6).

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Markquis Nowell leaves Little Rock

The Cajuns close Feb. 26-27 at Little Rock, which reportedly has lost standout guard Markquis Nowell.

Nowell “was spotted in the stands during the second half of Saturday's loss to Texas State” and has “opted out of the remainder” of the season, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Tuesday.

At 14.3 points per game, he’s the Sun Belt’s 11th-leading scorer.

More:Watch the lights go out on final play of tight Louisiana, Little Rock basketball game

COVID testing caused delay

When a Cajuns player felt sick during the first half Saturday at Arkansas State, he underwent a COVID-19 rapid test. No Cajuns tested positive in Jonesboro, a UL spokesman said, but the start of the second half was delayed a few minutes while the test was processed.

The Cajuns haven’t identified the player.

Meanwhile, UL coach Bob Marlin coached at Arkansas State after missing the two wins at Texas State because he’d tested positive. Marlin didn’t meet with media members as usual Monday because, according to Morris, he was at a “checkup” doctor’s appointment related to the COVID diagnosis.

Bob Marlin chasing Sun Belt lead

Marlin still needs two wins to pass former Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis Jr., now Ole Miss’ coach, for most Sun Belt coaching victories. Marlin is 116-78 in SBC play, all during his 11 seasons at UL.

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