On a day that had gone to form in the Sun Belt women’s basketball tournament, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette saved the upset for last.
Keke Veal scored 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting, Simone Fields posted a ULL’s first double-double of the year and the Cajuns held high-scoring Troy to a season low, winning 66-52 on Wednesday night at Lakefront Arena.
Sixth-seeded UL-Lafayette (19-11) advanced to the semifinals, where it will face No. 2 seed Arkansas State at 2 p.m. Friday.
This result definitely qualified as a surprise. The Cajuns never led in either regular season meeting, trailing by double digits at halftime both times. Troy (20-10), the third seed, entered on an eight-game winning streak and had scored at least 65 points in each of them.
But UL-Lafayette controlled Troy’s first-team All-Sun Belt tandem of Ashley Beverly-Kelley and Ronita Garrett.
Garrett had six points and eight rebounds after averaging 16.0 and 11.3 in the regular season. It was her first time under double figures in points since Jan. 5.
Beverly-Kelley scored a team-high 17 points but had to jack up 25 shots to get them, hitting eight.
“We spend 75 percent of our practices on defense and know where we want the ball to go and where to force it,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “Our best defense tonight was definitely our offense. We were very patient.”
The only times they weren’t patient were when they had fast-break opportunities. UL-Lafayette beat Troy down the court repeatedly for transition layups after getting rebounds. Early in the second half, the Cajuns even scored on a two-on-none, with no one near Veal as she laid it in.
Fields connected on seven of her nine shots, and Veal added seven rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“They snuck two off on us in the season, so I felt like we owed them,” Veal said. “We did what we had to do, and Simone came up big time. I told her she couldn’t go home if she didn’t have a double-double.”
The Cajuns, who led 28-26 at the half, went ahead for good with a 8-0 run early in the second half to go up 47-40.
It was a tough night all the way around for Garrett, who screamed at her teammates to get her the ball after not touching it on an empty possession in the first half. When Troy went on a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to 51-47, she fumbled an inbounds pass for a turnover, and lost the ball two more times in quick succession.
UL-Lafayette would have won even more comfortably if a couple of close calls had not gone against Veal, who picked up her third and fourth fouls on charges when she made the basket and was hoping for a 3-point play.
“We’ve been talking all week about what we can do as a team, not what we can’t do,” Brodhead said. “During the season it’s all about what we can’t do and what we shouldn’t do. I was very impressed at us sticking to our game plan.”