Redshirt junior J.J. Richardson is anxious to get back on the basketball court Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette after a week without a game, but he’s used to the waiting.
Though he regularly practiced with the team last season, he did not compete in any games as he restored his eligibility after transferring from Pittsburgh. Richardson then missed the first eight games of this season with a foot injury.
He debuted as a Cougar against Texas Southern, playing 10 minutes and scoring two points.
“I was overwhelmed with excitement,” Richardson said.
His energy and physicality in the second half helped the team secure a victory, said head coach James Dickey.
“That’s one of the reasons we put him in,” Dickey said. “He only practiced a couple of days and we weren’t sure if we were going to utilize him but we felt like we needed the spark.”
Richardson may have to exercise more patience this season after re-injuring his foot.
Besides Richardson, the Cougars are battling another injury in the front court.
Sophomore forward Mikhail McLean has a broken bone in his hand. He could miss two to three weeks. McLean contributed to the team with unselfish play and by providing energy on defense and presence on the boards since being inserted into the starting lineup against TCU.
Redshirt sophomore guard Joseph Young said McLean is willing to do the dirty work inside.
“Mikhail brings the energy on the defensive end and he helps with rebounding. He sets good screens that keep the defensive player from getting to the offensive player,” Young said.
Without McLean and possibly without Richardson providing energy and defense in the paint, the Cougars face the Cajuns, whose highest-scoring player, redshirt freshman Shawn Long, is a 6’9” forward.
“They’ll come in here ready to play, and they have an outstanding player in Shawn Long,” Dickey said.
Long has scored more than 20 points in three games this season and averages 16.8 per contest. He will challenge the Cougars with his size and skill with his back to the basket, especially given the Cougars’ aforementioned injuries.
The Cajuns, as a team, are better than their record indicates, Dickey said. Louisiana-Lafayette lost a close game to No. 19 Michigan State 63-60 but have a 4-6 record on the season.
The Cougars need to be proficient in defense and rebounding while making smart decisions with the basketball to secure a victory Saturday, Dickey said.
“It always starts on the defensive end for us,” Dickey said. “But two things are always important — don’t give away second chance points with offensive rebounds or turn the ball over where people can capitalize.”
The Cajuns don’t take solace in close losses and will be fired up to secure a victory, Dickey said. He said the Cougars will need their best effort to win.
“They go to Michigan State and only lose by three. I know coach (Bob) Marlin, he’s not going to be satisfied with any moral victories,” Dickey said.