LAFAYETTE — The last time South Alabama entered the Cajundome, its long-range shooting made the Jaguars a strong contender to pull an upset.
When the UL-Lafayette women’s basketball team faces South Alabama at 5 p.m. Thursday, coach Garry Brodhead said, he sees a more dangerous group of Jaguars coming.
“They are a better team. They have a little size inside,” Brodhead said.
The more guard-oriented version of the Jaguars made 9-of-15 from 3-point range a little more than a year ago before the Cajuns came back in the second half to take a 65-58 win. Rachel Cumbo, who made four of those 3-pointers, is gone. But the obstacle awaiting Brodhead’s squad may have shifted closer to the rim.
“Their size inside is a challenge,” Brodhead said, “They run a high-low offense, they are getting a lot of touches inside, and they are creating a lot of offense from their bigs. That is going to be a problem for us.”
The Cajuns (12-3, 5-1 Sun Belt) were able to apply pressure a couple of games ago against Georgia Southern in a 56-39 win. The basic principles against the Jaguars (6-9, 2-4) might be the same in an effort to force a bigger opponent to play a fast tempo.
“When we went to Georgia Southern, we pressed the whole game,” Brodhead said. “This is the first time this year that we did that. Against South Alabama, I don’t think we can play half-court with them. We have to get up and pressure them and create a game that is a little bit faster.”
One big gap between the teams is turnover margin. The Cajuns are first in the conference: They force 7.47 more turnovers per game than they commit. South Alabama is last in that category at minus-3.47.
In a 59-55 win Saturday over Texas-Arlington, the Jaguars committed 22 turnovers, but they countered that by blocking 10 shots. Chyna Ellis, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, had five blocks along with nine rebounds and 13 points. Ellis leads the conference with an average of 2.8 blocks.
Aside from the details within the perimeter and interior individual matchups, Brodhead noted this game comes down to making sure the Cajuns play with energy after they just ended a long stretch on the road.
“We got beat last year at South Alabama, and it was because we didn’t take care of business and we didn’t do the things we need to do to win games,” Brodhead said. “We are not good enough to just play. We have to play our style and how we plan to play to win. It’s not about talent, it’s about doing what we do best.”
Keke Veal, Kia Wilridge and Jaylyn Gordon have combined to average 44 points. In many cases, that best calling card for the Cajuns has included holding opponents’ scoring in the 50s or below. Four of the past five Cajuns opponents have not reached 60 points. The exception was Arkansas State, which scored 83 in the Cajuns’ only conference loss.
The Cajuns will face a Jaguars team that has a different look offensively than last year, but one that is making progress.
“They want to pound the ball inside, and they have a different team,” Brodhead said. “They are getting better at what they are doing, and they are defending better.”