LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Behind their top three leading scorers this season, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns women’s basketball team outlasted the Little Rock Trojans, 65-58 at the Jack Stephens Center on Thursday night.
The Cajuns improved their overall record to 10-2 overall and 3-0 in Sun Belt Conference play. It’s the first 3-0 conference start for the Louisiana program since 1982-83.
The offensive trio of seniors Keke Veal (30) and Kia Wilridge (11) and junior Jaylyn Gordon (15) combined for 56 of the Cajuns’ 65 points, and helped the team win their third straight game and eighth in the last nine overall. The 30 points for Veal were a career high.
“I thought those three did a great job offensively,” Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Garry Brodhead said. “Keke [Veal] shot the ball extremely well. Our turnovers were down and it was exciting to see the team’s improvement - especially on the road, which is very tough.
“I thought we were very patient and took a lot of good shots,” Brodhead added. “It allowed us to get a lot of five-on-five situations and limit Little Rock’s fast break opportunities.”
The win also bumped fourth-year head coach Garry Brodhead into a tie with Ross Cook for the second-most victories in program history with 57.
“It’s our first win since my tenure here at UL,” Brodhead said. “We talked about how we had to be ready mentally, and I thought we were already prepared physically. I thought we were consistent in our play offensively. It’s a big conference win on the road.”
The Cajuns led for 37:26 of the game after trailing 2-0 for the first 41 seconds. Leading 5-2 at the 5:28 mark, Gordon buried back-to-back treys to put the Cajuns ahead by eight, 10-2 with 3:54 to play in the first quarter.
A 9-6 scoring spurt by the Trojans closed the gap to 16-11 at the conclusion of the first quarter. Gordon netted eight of her 15 points in the opening stanza on 2-of-4 shooting, including 2-of-2 from long distance.
Little Rock’s Alexis Dawn scored seven straight points to pull the Trojans to within 20-19 at the 4:44 mark of the second quarter. Veal responded on the next possession with a three-pointer to push Louisiana’s lead back to four points.
Sophomore Simone Fields made a free throw while Veal scored on a layup on the next two possessions, providing the Cajuns with a 26-19 cushion with 3:24 to go in the opening half.
Monique Townson finished a three-point play to make it a 26-24 contest, but again Veal answered with a three-pointer, bumping the UL lead to 29-24.
Veal hit her third triple of the second quarter with 10 seconds left to close the half, leaving the score at 32-27 in favor of the Ragin’ Cajuns. She accounted for 11 of the Cajuns’ 16 points in the second stanza.
In the third quarter, Louisiana led by as many as nine (44-35) at the 5:38 mark and took a 51-44 lead into the final 10 minutes.
Dawn scored six of Little Rock’s first seven points of the fourth quarter, narrowing the contest to a 53-51 tally with 6:53 to go.
A free throw by Keanna Keys following a timeout brought the Trojans to within 53-52, but on the ensuing possession, Veal nailed another triple to increase the lead back to four at 56-52 with 4:24 to play in the contest.
The two foes traded points over the next 2:08, keeping the margin at six, 62-56. Wilridge made it a three-possession game after sinking a free throw with 1:26 remaining, preserving the team’s third road win of the 2015-16 campaign.
The Cajuns shot 42.9% (21-of-49) from the floor, including 50% (9-of-18) from three-point range. They also deposited 14-of-17 free throws (82.4%).
Gordon added a team-high five assists, a block and a steal in 34 minutes. Wilridge and freshman Breionne Cooper both pulled down six rebounds, tied for the team lead.
The win was the first victory for the program in Little Rock since January 29, 2000 (66-63 final), and snapped a five-game skid to the Trojans overall.
The Cajuns will go for their third straight win this Saturday, Jan. 9 at Arkansas State in a battle for first place in the Sun Belt Conference standings. Tip-off is slated for 3:05 p.m.