LAFAYETTE — The University of Louisiana at Lafayette women’s basketball team’s chase for a championship will branch out to a new path.
UL-Lafayette will play in the Women’s Basketball Invitational for the first time when the Cajuns host the University of Texas-Pan American Broncs at Earl K. Long Gym at 7 p.m. Thursday.
For a squad that includes one senior and a handful of juniors, the opening round of the tournament provides a chance to renew an effort that was temporarily halted by a 63-61 Sun Belt Conference tournament loss to Arkansas State.
“When you start the season, your whole goal is the postseason,” senior guard Robbie Brown said. “You want to get a ring or a championship, and we wanted to give ourselves a chance.”
The Cajuns received the chance by putting up a 19-12 mark, which gave them a No. 2 seed in the tournament’s West Region. By taking on two 20-win teams in Troy and Arkansas State during the SBC tournament, the Cajuns faced a well-rounded practice test for their postseason exam. “The teams in our conference are tough,” junior Adrienne Prejean said. “Texas-Pan American is similar to Troy. We were at a good point (as a team) when we ended that part of the season. We just have to keep playing that way.”
While UTPA’s personnel represents an unfamiliar opponent for the Cajuns, coach Garry Brodhead will be facing a friend in Broncs’ coach Larry Tidwell. When Brodhead served as an associate head coach at McNeese State in the Southland Conference, Tidwell was the coach at Lamar in Beaumont, Texas.
“Larry is a screen-and-roll, four (outside) and one (inside) coach,” Brodhead said. “He is mostly a zone coach on defense. Larry is a great friend, and he has helped me out. This is pretty neat. He has helped so many people (within their careers). He will call me to check up on me and my family. This is the first time as a head coach that I will be coaching against him.”
Tidwell’s troops include two double-figure scorers in the lineup. Sophomore Shawnte’ Goff averages 15.1 points. Senior center Brittany Bush chips in 10.2 points and is the team’s leading rebounder at 6.5 a game.
“They really like to get up and down the floor, and they are more athletic than the teams he (Tidwell) had at Lamar,” Brodhead said. “Bush is a post player who can step out on the perimeter. They are like Troy in some ways. They are shooting it quick to go get rebounds.”
Three Cajuns — guards Keke Veal, Jaylyn Gordon and Kia Wilridge — have stayed locked in as the team’s top scorers. Veal averages 14.1 points, Gordon 13.6 and Wilridge 12.3. Brown is ready to see how the tournament opener will unfold against a less familiar foe from the Western Athletic Conference, who comes in with a 19-14 record. “This goes back to old school basketball,” Brown said. “You just go back to playing and not focusing as much on what they do (schemewise). Now you get to play against somebody different, and the better team comes out on top.”