Sun Belt Conference women’s basketball preview: The Advocate’s Luke Johnson breaks down the teams and players to watch _lowres

Associated Press file photo by Bill Haber -- Arkansas State guard Aundrea Gamble is second in the Sun Belt in scoring, averaging 18.0 points per game.

The contenders

1. Louisiana-Lafayette

Despite playing a challenging schedule, the Ragin’ Cajuns have put together the league’s best record thanks to aggressive defense and a suddenly potent offense. The Cajuns have outscored opponents by nearly 15 points per game, and the three-headed monster of Keke Veal, Jaylyn Gordon and Kia Wilridge has been too much for opponents to handle. All three rank in the league’s top 10 in scoring.

2. Arkansas State

The Red Wolves are always in contention, and they’re up near the top of the standings again because of their effective offense. They rank No. 2 in the league in scoring offense (72.8 points per game), and they’re shooting better than anybody else (44.3 percent). Each of Arkansas State’s starters is averaging better than 7.9 points per game.

3. Georgia State

The Panthers entered conference play as one of the hottest teams in the league and, after defeating UT-Arlington in their conference opener, they’ve won five of their past six. They struggled defensively earlier in the season but have turned things around. They’ve been solid on offense throughout.

Players to watch

Khadija Brown-Haywood, Arkansas State

Brown-Haywood ranks second in the league in rebounding (8.4) and eighth in scoring (14.2).

Aundrea Gamble, Arkansas State

Gamble is well on her way to her third consecutive Sun Belt Player of the Year award. She’s leading the league at 18.5 points per game.

Alayshia Hunter, UL-Monroe

The senior has come out of nowhere to challenge Gamble for the scoring title. She’s scoring 18.3 points per game, nearly doubling her previous career high.

Numbers to know

85.1

Troy hasn’t gotten off to a great start, but the Trojans are a lot of fun to watch. They’re scoring 85.1 points per game, best in the conference by a baker’s dozen.

88

Texas State is off to a strong start, and deep shooting has been a big part of that. The Bobcats have made 88 shots from beyond the arc, which leads the league.

+8.4

Once again, the Cajuns lead the league in turnover margin. They have built their recent success mainly on this statistic.