LAFAYETTE — When the University of Louisiana women’s basketball team needed to separate itself from Appalachian State’s defense, the Cajuns drew a line in the sand 15 feet from the basket.
UL-Lafayette converted 28-of-41 free throws, which accounted for nearly half their points in a 60-51 victory over the Mountaineers in Sun Belt Conference play Saturday night at the Cajundome.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well; we were lucky we were able to shoot 41 free throws,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “When you get in these conference games, it’s about making free throws and layups.”
Even with that effort from the charity stripe, the Cajuns (9-2, 2-0) had a hard time shaking loose from a Mountaineer team that forced the Cajuns to shoot 31 percent from the field and 0-for-9 from 3-point range. That translated to the Cajuns holding a 42-39 lead heading into the final period.
“Just watching their (previous) game against ULM, they hung around. And it surprised me when they were able to get a couple of easy layups,” Brodhead said. “That concerned me at the end when we were only up by three with a few minutes left.”
Appalachian State freshman guard Kaila Craven scored 17 points off the bench, 10 in the third quarter.
The Cajuns managed to push their advantage to six points at 47-41 with just under four minutes remaining when Keke Veal knocked down a pair of free throws. The Mountaineers answered with an elbow jumper by Ashley Bassett-Smith. They later cut the deficit back to three on a KeKe Cooper layup with 2:35 left.
However, Cajuns’ junior guard Jaylyn Gordon got a step going toward the rim and she was able to dish the ball to Adrienne Prejean for a layup that pushed the gap back to 50-45.
“We went back to four out (of the paint), and Jay was hitting the lane line, and they had to help up (defensively),” Brodhead said. “It’s hard not to foul on that when they are helping like that.”
The Mountaineers (4-7, 1-1) got no closer than three the rest of the way and the Cajuns were able to expand the lead from the free-throw line.
Kia Wilridge had six of the Cajuns’ 16 field goals to help offset a 3-for-10 night from the line. Wilridge led the Cajuns with 15 points. Gordon and Veal combined for 16 free throws and finished with 10 points each.
The Cajuns have a four-game road stretch coming up in Arkansas and Georgia as part of the 18 conference contests they have remaining.
“The young ones don’t really understand,” said Wilridge, a senior. “It’s a long 18 games.”
Being in first place after two games is a good starting point for Brodhead. “If you can play bad and win, that would have never happened in our first three years,” Brodhead said. “I thought we defended pretty well and held them to 51, but you miss a lot of shots and you still win. It shows that you have a veteran team and have matured.”