LAFAYETTE — Robbie Brown’s well-balanced basketball diet has included a big helping of defense, a side order of freshman-year disappointment and a scoring feast.
Brown, who led the Louisiana-Lafayette women’s basketball team in steals as a freshman during the 2011-12 season, ranks second in the Sun Belt Conference (in conference games) in 3-point field goal accuracy as a senior. She has made 46.4 percent of her long-range attempts and has put up double-figure point totals in five of the Cajuns’ past six contests.
That has given coach Garry Brodhead some flexibility when he wants to create mismatches against either big or small opponent lineups. When other teams run out four guards and one post player, Brodhead has moved Brown into a starting role to team her up with guards Jaylyn Gordon, Keke Veal and Kia Wilridge.
“It’s tough to come off the bench, and we thought Robbie was good at it,” Brodhead said. “The last couple of games, we went with a small lineup. It made it more difficult to guard us when teams went to a zone defense.”
Brown’s skill set partially grew out of facing some challenging pick-up games as a student at St. Thomas More High School.
“We always wanted to play against the boys at STM,” Brown said. “We always wanted to play against bigger and better players.”
A new challenge was waiting when Brown went through her first season for the Cajuns. She was part of a team that finished 7-23 under former Cajuns coach Errol Rogers. Brodhead was in his final season as the associate head coach at McNeese State.
When the Cowgirls squared off against the Cajuns, Brodhead came away with a win and a window view of one of his future players.
“That first season, she led (the Cajuns) in steals — we wanted to try to back-cut her,” Brodhead said. “She played good defense. People now have to be more concerned about her on defense (as a scorer). I’m excited for her. She fought through two coaches and two styles of play.”
One thing has remained a constant — Brown’s enthusiasm for defending. She had 12 points on a career-high four 3-pointers in a Jan. 22 win over Arkansas State. Brown followed that with 14 points and four rebounds in the Cajuns’ victory over Georgia State that kicked off their ongoing three-game road trip.
The actions that often lead to those points are a point of pride for her.
“I have always been a defensive player,” she said. “To get a steal and get a layup or an assist, that is more of a rush than anything.”
Brown’s performances through the conference schedule have been more about steady effort rather than on and off bursts of energy.
“When you play for four years ... she knows there’s only 11 regular-season games left and hopefully some postseason,” Cajuns associate head coach Sallie Guillory said. “If you look at the end of the game, she’s got 10 or 12 points, three or four rebounds, three or four steals, a couple of assists and she has just been very consistent.”
The Cajuns’ return to the road will take them to Mobile, Alabama, for a Thursday morning rematch against the University of South Alabama at 11 a.m. Brown had 10 points when the Cajuns (13-5, 5-4 SBC) defeated the Jaguars (3-15, 0-9) 65-58 at the Cajundome 12 days ago. Veal and Gordon each scored 15 to fuel a comeback win.
“We’ve got to find a way to stop their 3-point shooting,” Guillory said. “They shot 83 percent from the (3-point line) in the first half the last time we played them. We didn’t do a good job of covering their shooters. We were a little bit late and gave them some wide-open looks.”
The Cajuns are coming off a win at Georgia State when the opponent was far less successful from long distance: 0-for-15.
“A lot of that was that we were in their faces and kind of made them uncomfortable,” Guillory said. “We’ve got to make South Alabama uncomfortable. They want to all stand around the 3-point line and jack it up. We’ve got to get in their faces and pressure them and make them shoot it quick.”