LAFAYETTE — When the Ragin’ Cajuns took run-and-gun away from the Troy Trojans on Saturday afternoon, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette women’s basketball team still had a big hill to climb.
The Cajuns crawled out of a 15-point first-half hole against Troy at the Cajundome to pull out a 56-53 win and stay unbeaten at home.
At one point, the Cajuns trailed 25-10 before they were able to gradually close the gap through the next few quarters. The Cajuns grabbed the lead for the first time since the first quarter when Keke Veal connected on a jumper with 2:10 left in the game to make the score 50-48. Ashley Beverly Kelley, who came in leading the Sun Belt Conference in scoring with a 20.1 average, scored her final points of the game on a pull-up baseline jumper that tied the score at 50 with 1:52 left. Veal made a free throw on the next possession before a Cajuns defensive stop and a pair of Jaylyn Gordon free throws put the Cajuns on top 53-50.
The Trojans had one chance to answer while the margin was still one score, but Jodi Quinn harassed Beverly Kelley down the court, and Brooklyn Arceneaux came in to get the steal and help seal the win. Gordon knocked down two more free throws to make it 55-50. Rachel Reid knocked down a 3-pointer for Troy with six seconds left. But a Kia Wilridge free throw forced the Trojans’ Caitlyn Ramirez to attempt a long heave at the buzzer. Breionne Cooper, a 6-foot-3, freshman, knocked that attempt away before it could be launched.
The Cajuns (14-3, 7-1 in Sun Belt) had completed their comeback and held a team that came in averaging 86 points to 53.
“We realized at halftime we had to play our ball,” Wilridge said. “We were letting them dictate too much what we did. We had to attack them more and get them to play our game and not play theirs.”
Playing their game included the Cajuns getting 23 points and five 3-pointers from Gordon, who scored 20 of those points in the second half.
“At halftime, they just said ‘look to score’ and I turned it up,” Gordon said.
Troy (10-7, 5-3) turned up the pressure on the Cajuns early by using a combination of half-court zones and traps to hold the Cajuns to 10 points through the first 16 minutes. By that point, Troy had claimed that 15-point lead largely thanks to guard Ta’Kierra Gibbs, who had scored 13 points for the Trojans by halftime when they headed to the locker room with a 29-17 cushion.
“We were probably too literal and overthought it as coaches as far as being patient on offense,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “We had to come out in the second half and start attacking.”
Veal finished with 12 points for the Cajuns. Arceneaux had eight points, nine rebounds and three steals, including that last steal in the closing seconds when Quinn and Arceneaux were the defenders.
“Last year, Jodi (Quinn) guarded Beverly Kelley in the second half of the conference tournament when Kia was tired,” Brodhead said. “That’s why we put Jodi in. We said we are not going to press except we are going to press Ashley Beverly Kelley the length of the floor — and we were telling Jodi not to foul.”
That contributed to the Cajuns picking up their fourth straight win. They will host Texas State at 5 p.m. Thursday.