Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns have done a good job of playing the hand they're dealt this season.

Coming off a 20-9 record, a Sun Belt Conference championship and an NCAA Tournament berth, the Cajuns were picked to win another Sun Belt Western Division title this year and most figured they would also be contenders for the SBC tournament crown.

This despite losing four players - and much scoring - from that 2003-2004 squad, as well as starting over with a new coach in Robert Lee.

Then indispensible point guard Orien Greene broke a leg in a Dec. 11 game at Kansas, and he didn't return to the court until UL was already 0-1 in Sun Belt competition.

Somehow, though, the Cajuns have held it together.

In fact, since Greene's return, they have won 11 of their last 12 games and are on target to win the West on this week's road trip to Arkansas State and Arkansas-Little Rock as well as earn the best record in the league.

"The key was getting guys to embrace that challenge," said Lee, the longtime UL assistant who is 17-8 in his first year running the show. "As the favorites, we had that so-called bull's eye on our backs.

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Bruce Brown