LAFAYETTE — A day after the disappointment of seeing the Cajuns suffer a low-energy loss against Texas State, UL-Lafayette women’s basketball coach Garry Brodhead wanted to walk out of practice Friday afternoon at Earl K. Long Gym with a different view.
“We asked (the players) a few questions and they came in today and they are ready to move on,” Brodhead said. “We had a great practice. Everybody was attentive and everybody had energy at a different level. Now we just have to carry it over to the game.”
That game involves a visit by the UT-Arlington Mavericks (8-10, 3-5 Sun Belt) to the Cajundome for a 2 p.m. contest on Saturday with the Cajuns (14-4, 7-2). Whenever the Cajuns have experienced defeat, the responses have been immediate.
“We made a mistake and we have to correct it,” Brodhead said. “Sometimes it takes that loss to get people’s attention. I know every loss we have had this year made us better.”
Those previous losses had all been on the road to Houston, Louisiana Tech and Arkansas State. The Cajuns’ opportunity to bounce back from a first home loss comes against a Mavericks squad that has size in the middle thanks to 6-foot-5 sophomore center Rebekah VanDijk. In the Mavericks’ 60-50 win over ULM at Fant-Ewing Coliseum on Thursday, VanDijk made 7-of-10 free throws and hauled down seven offensive rebounds as part of a 13-point and 15-rebound effort.
“I think she took us by surprise last year as a freshman and now from teams around the league you are starting to see more double teams on her (VanDijk),” Brodhead said. “You have to shut the big kid down and shut down the middle.”
If a trapped VanDijk is compelled to send the ball out to the perimeter, the Mavericks’ best outside scoring threat has been senior Amara Wainwright, who is averaging 10.2 points and has made 44.7 percent of her attempts from 3-point range. Guard Cierra Johnson is the Mavs’ third double-digit scorer at 10.9 points a game.
It is an inside-outside attack that has contributed to a 60.6 scoring average for the Mavericks. “They don’t really play off the dribble a lot — they move the ball,” Brodhead said. “I was impressed last year with their ball movement. They are skipping the ball and trying to get the ball inside-out where they are very difficult to guard.”
The Cajuns typically use more dribble penetration from guards Keke Veal and Kia Wilridge to initiate their offense. Veal leads the Cajuns with a 14.6 scoring average while Wilridge has chipped in 12.6 points a game.
The first part of getting Veal and Wilridge on the move Saturday will be getting a first-shot miss from the Mavericks and then keeping Van Dijk away from second-chance points.
“If we can get them to take a tough shot, then it gives us a chance to run our transition, too,” Brodhead said. “If they are making shots and we have to take the ball out of bounds, it slows us down. So there are a lot of benefits to them missing shots and not getting the offensive rebound.”