LAFAYETTE — When the University of Louisiana-Lafayette piled up points in the first half Wednesday afternoon, Mississippi State University made some changes that pulled the Cajuns out of that established comfort zone.
The 20th ranked Bulldogs closed the first half with a 10-0 run and limited the Cajuns to 17 points in the second half to leave the Cajundome with a 66-51 victory.
The contest’s first few minutes featured UL-Lafayette calling upon a full-court press defense to score the first five points. Guard Jaylyn Gordon found Keke Veal for a layup to increase the lead to 13-4 with 13:19 left in the opening half.
“We decided to press from the beginning and that’s what they (the Bulldogs) love to do,” Cajuns’ coach Garry Brodhead said.
“Whatever you like to do, there’s a reason you like to do it and it’s usually pretty effective. You don’t like other people to do it to you. It wasn’t that they couldn’t guard us. They didn’t get a chance to guard us because we were getting steals and getting transition baskets. The problem we had is it’s hard to rotate enough kids in to keep us fresh. We had to make a decision if we were going to pull out of it. We did and we weren’t quite as good (defensively) in the half court as the full court.”
UL-Lafayette managed to keep some breathing room during the first half thanks to 13 points from Veal and eight from Kia Wilridge before the break. Veal hit a jumper with five minutes left to give the Cajuns a 10-point cushion at 32-22. A steal by Wilridge and a subsequent Veal layup pushed the lead to 12.
“We knew they couldn’t guard us man-to-man,” Wilridge said. “It was in our favor to get to the goal. When they were in zone, they are bigger than us, so it was harder for us to get there (to the rim).”
Mississippi State made its move during the rest of the opening half. Bulldog guard Morgan William accounted for six of her squad’s 10-point run. The last basket came with 25 seconds left when she scored on a drive and a layup.
While the Bulldogs started to find their footing on offense, the Cajuns’ struggled to duplicate the success of the first half. They made 6-of-32 field goal attempts in the second half -- including 3-of-15 from 3-point range.
“They not only can score, they can defend,” Brodhead said. “With their zone, it kind of slowed us down. We guarded them in the second half, but our offense couldn’t get going. It’s just something you work on and show them how to penetrate (defensive) gaps. It’s a little different than facing pressure. The zone is more sagging and they (the opponents) are trying to close gaps.”
Mississippi State pushed its lead to nine points before a 3-pointer by Gordon made the score 46-40 with 11:40 left. The Bulldogs later pushed the lead back to 12 until a 4-point play from Gordon changed the score to 54-46 with 3:24 remaining.