It would have been easy to credit better shooting for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s 68-52 Thursday win over Georgia State, the Cajuns women’s basketball team’s first Sun Belt Conference victory.
The Cajuns shot 41.4 percent from the floor — not a stellar number, but it came on the heels of UL-Lafayette making less than one-third of its shots in its first three Sun Belt games. It was also the Cajuns’ best mark in nine games, dating to the first week of December.
Associate head coach Sallie Guillory admitted that it was more fun to see shots drop, but she credited her team’s defensive effort for snapping a three-game loss streak.
“They (Georgia State) were averaging 73 points, and we held them to 52 and forced 24 turnovers,” Guillory said. “When you make shots you can press, and we made a lot of shots that let us press. I think they went three, four minutes when they rarely got the ball past half-court.”
The Cajuns (9-4, 1-3) forced 20 or more turnovers for the eighth time in 13 games, and had defense-driven runs of 8-0, 14-0 and 7-0 in Thursday’s first half in building a 38-27 halftime lead. Georgia State, which had won two of its first three in league play, had 14 turnovers by halftime.
“We’ve established that as our MO,” said Guillory, who compared Thursday’s opponent, Georgia Southern, with the Panthers. “They (Georgia Southern) have big kids just like Georgia State did, and they try to pound the ball inside, so we’re going to have to get after them in the full court.”
UL-Lafayette travels to face Georgia Southern (4-9, 1-3) at 4 p.m. Thursday in Statesboro, Georgia, the front half of a doubleheader with the Cajuns men’s team. After that, the Cajuns play three straight home games.
Thursday’s scoring runs were helped greatly by sophomore Jaylyn Gordon’s breakout shooting. The Edgard-West St. John product hit six 3-pointers in the game, four in the first half, and both of her second-half attempts in her fourth 20-point game of the season.
Gordon finished 7-of-11 from the field and 6-of-9 outside the arc. She had gone a combined 12-of-55 (21.8 percent) from the field and 5-of-39 (12.8 percent) from 3-point range in her previous four games.
“We recruited her as a shooter. I watched her score 36 in her state championship game,” Guillory said. “We never said to stop shooting because she’s a shooter. But when you see that ball go in, you get some confidence. I’m even more proud that she got six defensive rebounds, took a charge and held their top scorer to three points when she was on her.”
Guillory, in her third year as associate head coach, and the rest of the UL-Lafayette staff have taken on added responsibilities with coach Garry Brodhead not available full-time while assisting wife Andrea with medical issues. Brodhead has coached at home games and at practices but has not traveled to the squad’s past two road games.
“We’re just trying to do what he would want us to do,” Guillory said. “I’ve been coaching with him since I was 18 (including AAU ball). He allows his whole staff to coach, it’s not just him.”
Guillory said the players may have been the least affected by Brodhead’s absences.
“Kids are more resilient than we give them credit,” she said. “They’re close to coach and his family, but our team is mature, and it doesn’t change a lot of what we do day in and day out. They want to win and they know what it’s going to take no matter who’s there.”
UL-Lafayette’s team will be involved in a weekend salute to former Cajuns standout Kim Perrot, who played internationally and won two titles in the WNBA before succumbing to cancer in 1999 at age 32.
Perrot, a Lafayette native whose UL-Lafayette jersey was retired one year before her death in 1998, will have her No. 12 banner raised in the Cajundome during Saturday’s 5 p.m. home game against South Alabama. Activities begin with a 7 p.m. Friday banquet and social at the Petroleum Club.
“A lot of people around here may not have followed the program closely, but they know Kim and the impact she had on the community,” Guillory said. “She had an opportunity to play anywhere in the country, and she chose to stay at home. She fought when she was here, she fought to play in the WNBA and then she fought cancer.”
Perrot led the nation in scoring as a senior in 1989-90 and still ranks second in NCAA history for single-game scoring with a 58-point performance against Southeastern Louisiana that year.