The University of Louisiana at Lafayette women’s basketball team’s improbable comeback came up just short here Saturday, thanks mostly to Troy’s Rachel Reid.
The Trojan junior nailed two tough 3-pointers in the final 45 seconds, the second one breaking a 55-55 tie, as Troy held on for a 60-55 win over the Cajuns at the Cajundome.
The cold-shooting Cajuns never led and trailed by as many as 19 points with less than 12 minutes left before going on a 25-6 run over a span of 8:23, with Robbie Brown’s free throw tying the game for the first time at 52 with 3:03 left.
Both teams missed opportunities before Reid, who had no field goals and three points entering the final minute, hit a 3-pointer in transition with 45 seconds left.
Brown, who finished with a team-high 16 points, answered with a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left to tie it at 55. But Reid answered with her second 3-pointer 11 seconds later for the winning margin.
“This team’s very resilient,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead. “I’m really pleased with the effort at the end. We started pressing ... that’s what we do best, and that really bothered them.”
Troy (6-5, 1-1 Sun Belt Conference) jumped to a 6-0 lead and used a 12-2 run late in the first half to build a double-digit lead. Ashley Beverly-Kelley, the Trojans’ leading scorer, converted a three-point play 12 seconds before halftime for a 33-22 edge at intermission.
At that point, the Cajuns (8-3, 0-2) were shooting 23.5 percent as a team, and the starting backcourt of Kia Wilridge, Jaylyn Gordon and Keke Veal were a combined 5-of-25 from the floor. That came on the heels of a 25 percent shooting effort (14-of-56) in Tuesday’s Sun Belt opener at Arkansas-Little Rock.
“We’ve got to bring it from the start,” said Wilridge, who with Gordon added eight points each for UL-Lafayette. “We can’t be a second-half team.”
The Cajuns fell behind by as many as 19 early in the second half, with Beverly-Kelley’s driving jumper giving Troy a 46-27 advantage. But UL-Lafayette scored the game’s next eight points in kick-starting the late run, with Brown’s first 3-pointer cutting the margin to 49-43 with 4:19 left. Veal got her first points with a 3-pointer at 3:13 that pulled the Cajuns within 51-50.
Aissata Maiga led the Trojans with 14 points, 10 of those in the first half, but the Cajuns defense forced Troy into 14 second-half turnovers. Troy entered the game among the national leaders in turnover margin.
“We finally got after it,” Brown said. “In the second half, we played the way we’re supposed to play. We went after steals and got some tips and got some things going offensively. We hit some shots late, and they hit some shots too. If we’d had another 30 seconds, we’d definitely have won.”
The Cajuns ended up shooting only 29.0 as a team (18-of-62) and were 5-of-26 from 3-point range and 14-of-24 from the line. Before the three 3-pointers in the final 4:19, UL-Lafayette was 2-of-21 outside the arc.
“That’s a confidence thing,” Brodhead said. “It’s improvement we need to make. It’s really disappointing because we missed some layups and a lot of free throws. You win with defense, but we still have to knock down some shots.”