LAFAYETTE — Now that the Louisiana-Lafayette women’s basketball team has shown they can win in a neighboring state and in a U.S. territory, the next step is the start of Sun Belt Conference action.

Through five games, the Ragin’ Cajuns (4-1) have a win at Ole Miss along with victories against Arkansas and Sacred Heart during the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico. That has included a couple of opponents who played a fast tempo and others who preferred a slower pace.

The Cajuns forced 28 turnovers in their last win, a 60-58 victory in overtime over Sacred Heart.

“Sacred Heart was able to slow us down a little bit and we had to start pressing (defensively) to get going,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “That is kind of our forte — some of the things we do on the defensive side to create a lot of offense. I kind of like that. We can play in many different ways this year because of our lineup.”

That has included the return of experienced guards and the addition of 6-foot-1 freshman Jordan Alexander and 6-3 Breionne Cooper. As the Cajuns eye their conference-opener Thursday against UL-Monroe, the path to finding success on the road during the season’s first few weeks may have been formed far from the UL-Lafayette campus.

“When you win those road games, it makes it a lot easier wherever you play,” Brodhead said. “We have a veteran team that played a lot of AAU (games). That’s big when you get kids that have played a lot of AAU. They are playing all over the country and they kind of get used to it. I think this will be the best road team I have had since we have been here.”

In the zone

In addition to being suited for various paces of play, Brodhead said he feels his team is better equipped to deal with zone defenses than the Cajuns were last season. Guard Brooklyn Arceneaux, who is averaging 5.6 points and 5.4 rebounds, will be part of that effort as both a penetrator and a passer.

“We didn’t have Brooklyn last year, and Brooklyn is really good at the high post,” Brodhead said. “You will be looking at opening that zone up a little bit.”

Guard Sylvana Okde is approaching her return date from injury within the next week or two. Okde ranks fifth in school history with 148 3-pointers despite missing last season.

“(Okde) is shooting lights out right now,” Brodhead said. “Hopefully, we can work her in during the next couple of weeks. I feel a lot more confident we can handle that zone this year compared to what we fought last year.”

Memories of Puerto Rico

Aside from two victories, Brodhead said the educational value of the Cajuns experiencing Puerto Rican culture will last long after this season.

“They were in a great mood,” Brodhead said. “Our support staff noticed that (the team) really came together. They will never forget it. You forget about the jump shots and the wins, but trips like that you don’t forget. That’s important for our university to provide that to our student-athletes.”