UIW’s Cody Graham (right) drives on Northern Colorado’s Johnatan Reyes.
Sophomore guard Cody Graham will play Wednesday night when the Incarnate Word Cardinals host the McNeese State Cowboys in a Southland Conference opener for both teams.
First-year UIW coach Carson Cunningham said Graham is a “full go” for the McNeese game after sitting out three straight with an injury.
The 5-10 sophomore from Fresno, Texas, played in UIW’s first 10 games and started nine of them before missing road losses at LSU, Illinois-Chicago and DePaul.
Incarnate Word coach Carson Cunningham gives directions to freshman guard Jordan Caruso in a 90-64 loss to Northern Colorado on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018.
So, getting Graham back is a bonus for the Cardinals (5-8) as they continue preparations for SLC home games Wednesday against McNeese (4-9) and Saturday against the Nicholls State Colonels (7-6).
But as for the playing status of sophomore forward Christian Peevy, UIW’s leading scorer, Cunningham can’t say for sure.
“We’re going to find out,” Cunningham said after Monday’s workout. “We know he’s working hard to get better and as prepared as he can. We’ll know soon.”
Peevy enjoyed consecutive games of 26, 32, 23 and 16 points before sitting out UIW’s last two at Illinois-Chicago and DePaul.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding Peevy and a few others who didn’t do much in a New Year’s Eve workout, Cunningham said UIW is ready for the conference schedule to commence.
“We’re excited,” the coach said. “It’s a great time of year. We feel like we’ve had a difficult, challenging pre-conference slate, and it’s time to tip it up in conference.”
With several players not available, the Cardinals played well, all things considered, on the two-game trip to Chicago.
In a 63-57 loss at Illinois-Chicago, they clamped down defensively, holding the Flames to 18 points and 21 percent shooting in the second half.
Two nights later, in a 81-71 loss at DePaul, the Cardinals rained 14 three-point baskets on the Blue Demons.
Not bad for a banged-up SLC squad against a Big East opponent.
“I thought we did a lot of nice things,” Cunningham said. “I think we’re getting better. I’m hoping we can build off that as we start conference.”
At DePaul, UIW played well in the first half and trailed 42-38.
In the second half, the Cardinals continued to make shots. They were within eight with 11:36 remaining before the Blue Demons stepped on the gas and pumped the lead to 16.
Still, the home team couldn’t pull away, as UIW senior Charles Brown III and freshman teammate Antoine Smith both knocked down five three pointers.
“I thought we showed some real growth,” Cunningham said. “Guys were sharing the apple. We had good movement. We had some good flow. We’re just continuing to battle.”
Freshman Antoine Smith Jr. pulls down a rebound against Northern Colorado. Smith scored 15 points on five 3-pointers at DePaul on Dec. 19.