LAFAYETTE — When the University of Louisiana at Lafayette women’s basketball team chases a championship-game berth, it will face an opponent with a chance at breaking a national record.
The Cajuns host Oral Roberts at 6 p.m. Thursday at Earl K. Long Gym in a semifinal game of the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
The Golden Eagles (18-15), from Tulsa, Oklahoma, bring 6-foot-7 center Vicky McIntyre. The Florida graduate who transferred to ORU for her final year of eligibility is the nation’s leading rebounder. She averages 15.8 rebounds, and her 522 rebounds are 17 away from the NCAA single-season record of 539, set by Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris in 2006.
“We have to get after them and play pressure defense,” Cajuns associate head coach Sallie Guillory said. “We are not going to be asking one kid to guard a 6-foot-7 kid. We play five kids on defense out there.”
That defensive pressure will include the efforts of guards Kia Wilridge, Keke Veal and Jaylyn Gordon. The Cajuns have consistently forced 20-plus turnovers this season. Their turnover margin stands at almost plus-7 (21.1 to 14.2). The Cajuns have 343 steals compared to 203 by their opponents.
“(The Golden Eagles) like to lob the ball to (McIntyre) and let her make a play,” Guillory said. “We can’t let them do that.”
In addition to her rebounding and defensive efforts, McIntyre is the lone double-figure scorer for the Golden Eagles at 15.6 points per game. Guard Atoe’ Jackson is a primary 3-point threat for ORU. She makes 34.2 percent of her 3-ponters and averages 9.4 points.
“I think we can do some things to limit McIntyre,” Guillory said. “Maybe not stop her, but limit her. Those role players — we have to make them do their roles and not let them ... beyond that.”
Both teams pulled out wins in the final minute of their quarterfinal games.
The Cajuns used a 3-pointer by Gordon to help close out a win over McNeese State on Saturday.
The Golden Eagles knocked off the West region’s top seed on Monday, when they traveled to Albuquerque and outlasted the New Mexico 63-61. Freshman Jordan Doyle sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 22 seconds left to push her team one step closer to a title.
“They are not a tremendous 3-point shooting team, so we have to protect the paint,” Guillory said. “They out-rebounded (Sun Belt member) Texas State by 19 when they played them. They have two 5-9 guards and a 6-1 guard who start. So our guards have to block out ... the coaches have to block out.”
While the Golden Eagles have a size advantage, they have to combat a smaller Cajuns squad relying on speed.
Coach Garry Brodhead said McIntyre could create opportunities for herself or kick the ball out to 3-point shooters.
“We might have to give up a couple of 3-pointers and bite our tongues,” Brodhead said. “She (McIntyre) causes some problems. But sometimes those (tall) players can get caught in the middle of the floor. It would be great if we can make it a struggle for her to get up and down the floor and make steals before she gets past half court.”