LAFAYETTE — Simone Fields has the first few things on her wish list, but she will have to go to New Orleans for the answer on the fourth item.
The sophomore forward from San Antonio, Texas, and her teammates on the Louisiana-Lafayette women’s basketball team have made their way through a 20-game Sun Belt Conference schedule in the regular season. That journey put them in position for the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament.
It is a week that Fields and many others in the program have had circled — while they were working their way to a second straight 20-win season (20-9).
“It’s a big deal,” Fields said. “That’s what we have been waiting for. We have been ready.”
The first part of what the Cajuns want to be a 3-part exam comes against an opponent that gives Fields some geography-based motivation. The No. 6 seed UT Arlington awaits in a quarterfinal matchup at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. “I like playing Texas teams,” Fields said.
Another factor that may work in Fields’ favor is the Lady Mavericks bring 6-foot-5 center Rebekah VanDijk into the fray as a main part of their offense. When Fields faced off against VanDijk on February 18, Fields, who is 6-feet, finished with 19 points and eight rebounds. VanDijk had four points on a 2-for-8 shooting effort.
Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead mentioned a moment last season when Fields’ effort against another bigger opponent impressed him. Fields was a freshman going against Oral Roberts’ 6-7 senior center Vicky McIntyre in the a semifinal of the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
“(McIntyre) was averaging a double-double and we had to put Simone on an island and have her play one-on-one,” Brodhead said. “She held her to two points in a half.”
Even though that came in a postseason tournament the Cajuns later won by beating Siena in the final, Brodhead said those games functioned somewhat as a preseason for this year.
“That helped out the whole team and Simone (individually),” Brodhead said. “Each one of the other players started having more confidence in Simone.”
On the offensive end, Fields is averaging 8.1 points and is shooting 51 percent from the field (89-of-175).
A point of emphasis from the coaching staff to Fields to raise that point production has been to use both hands when receiving a pass.
“Sometimes players think they are LeBron James and they can catch the ball with one hand,” Brodhead said. “But you can’t do that in the lane because people are tipping the ball. When she catches the ball with two hands, it’s difficult for them to get the ball from Simone because of her strength.”
Brodhead has seen moments when Fields put those offensive and defensive elements together at the same time. “She is so talented and she finished off strong as a freshman,” Brodhead said.
“The expectations were high and we wanted to see if Simone could get more consistent through the long part of the season.”
So Fields has the start of the conference tournament at hand against a Texas opponent that features a big lineup as a challenge. That last thing on the list would come into play as the Cajuns advance into the semifinals or finals.
“I just want to be consistent through the entire tournament,” Fields said.