This is heady stuff for Louisiana-Lafayette’s women’s basketball team.
The Ragin’ Cajun women haven’t been 5-0 since 1983, long before any of the current squad members were born. That year, UL-Lafayette began the season with six straight wins, still the program’s best-ever start, and even that 1983-84 team couldn’t beat perennial power Louisiana Tech — which this year’s Cajuns did three weekends ago.
UL-Lafayette is also in that rarefied atmosphere of 15 unbeaten teams nationally, a group that resembles a Who’s Who of women’s basketball, and the Cajuns hope to stay in that group Saturday when they face Southern-New Orleans in the middle game of a three-game homestand.
“Thirty years ago I looked at this program and saw opportunity,” said Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead, whose squad improved on its record in each of his first two seasons. “We think we have the right people in place to give us a chance to be a conference champion.”
Those Sun Belt Conference steps come later, with league play beginning Dec. 30 at Arkansas-Little Rock. For now, his team is pointing at Saturday’s 4:15 p.m. tipoff at the Cajundome, following the UL-Lafayette men hosting Centenary at 2 p.m. in the first part of a hoops doubleheader.
SUNO isn’t your typical non-Division I club. The Lady Knights are 4-2 on the court (they won one game by forfeit), and their average margin of victory in three of those wins is 45 points. SUNO beat both Selma University and Judson College by 50-point margins.
“They’re very athletic,” Brodhead said of the Lady Knights. “They push the ball on offense and they’ll play some man and zone on defense. Our major goal is to go out and guard them because they have scorers.”
Former Natchitoches-Central all-stater Brandy Broome is SUNO’s all-around leader with 20.3 points, 6.5 steals, 4.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds per game, marks good enough to lead the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference in the first three categories and to lead the nation’s NAIA ranks in steals. She is one of nine seniors on an all-senior and junior roster that includes two players from Russia and one from Latvia.
The Cajuns are used to holding opposing teams in check this year. UL-Lafayette has allowed opponents to get out of the 50’s only once this season, that in a 71-60 win at Southeastern Louisiana, and opponents are shooting 38.4 percent from the floor and averaging 22 turnovers per game. Sam Houston State committed 30 in the Cajuns’ easy 65-46 win in the Cajundome last Saturday in their last outing.
The Cajuns’ three-guard Louisiana trio of juniors Kia Wilridge (13.6) and Keke Veal (11.4) and sophomore Jaylyn Gordon (17.0) pace the team in scoring. Veal only played seven minutes against Sam Houston while battling the flu, while Gordon didn’t play at all after suffering a concussion in practice.
“That’s 30 points we started without,” Brodhead said, “and to be able to do that, to basically not have either one of them and to still win is a big step for our program.”