LAFAYETTE — After 20 minutes of rust removal, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette women’s basketball team finished final preparations for Sun Belt Conference action with some open-court play.
Keke Veal scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half to help guide the Cajuns to a 65-56 victory over Southwestern Athletic Conference foe Jackson State on Sunday at the Cajundome.
“We know she (Veal) can score, so we tried to get her in the open court,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “When she attacks the goal and attacks the middle, she is phenomenal.”
That attacking style contributed to the Cajuns drawing the seventh team foul on Jackson State midway through the second half. That 10 minutes of being in the bonus led to the Cajuns going 14-of-18 from the line in the second half.
“If I am off (with my shooting), I go to the goal,” UL-Lafayette guard Jaylyn Gordon said. Gordon made 7-of-8 free throws as part of her 14-point effort.
Veal put the Cajuns ahead for good with 13:43 left when she connected on a 3-pointer to put UL-Lafayette on top 39-36. Senior guard Robbie Brown followed that with a fast-break layup and a second layup off a Tiger turnover to change the score to 43-36.
“Robbie had six points and she defended and put pressure on the ball,” Brodhead said. “We talk about the bench’s role: Stay ready, be ready and be productive when you come in.”
Junior guard Kia Wilridge helped the Cajuns fight through an uneven first half by putting up 10 of her 12 points in the opening 20 minutes.
“In the first half, we were sluggish,” Brodhead said. “That’s why we wanted this game. We wanted to get the kinks out. Kia played a complete game.”
The Cajuns grabbed their biggest lead of the first half when Wilridge canned a baseline jumper to make it 17-6 with 13 minutes left. But the Tigers gradually closed the gap and evened the score at 22-all when guard Ayanna Lynn scored on a drive with 2:38 remaining.
UL-Lafayette later used a free throw by Wilridge and a bucket inside by freshman Simone Fields to head to the locker room with a 29-25 advantage.
Ayanna Hardy-Fuller led Jackson State (3-8) with 10 points and six rebounds. The Cajuns improved to 8-1 heading into their conference opener Tuesday at Arkansas-Little Rock.
“We would like to be 9-0, but Mississippi State didn’t want that for us,” Brodhead said. “UALR is a team that consistently puts pressure on the ball, and that’s why they win. It’s a great measuring stick for us. Are we in the middle or near the top of the conference? Can we go there and hold our own?”