LAFAYETTE — To make sure they stay entrenched in the third spot in the Sun Belt standings, the Louisiana-Lafayette women’s basketball team will need to keep things moving this week.
Coming off a 68-59 loss at South Alabama in which the Ragin’ Cajuns finished with just five assists, coach Garry Brodhead noted that ball movement was an area of emphasis at Monday’s practice.
“It’s a big point of what we are going to do, and it may be one of our weaknesses,” Brodhead said. “Over the last four years I have been here, (assisting) has not been one of our strengths. We do like to dribble a lot, dribble-drive and pitch. Part of practice was to get kids to stop watching (the ball).”
Against South Alabama, senior guards Keke Veal and Kia Wilridge had all of the Cajuns’ assists.
“Keke is so talented,” Brodhead said. “Sometimes we get caught up watching her dribble and trying to create something. It’s important, especially going into the tournament, that we get more people involved.”
Veal had 26 points against the Jaguars, while sophomore Simone Fields had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Maintaining a balanced offense has been a balancing act of weighing pros and cons through 27 games.
“(Assistants Katherine Katz and Deacon Jones) are in charge of the offense, and they do a good job of trying to get everybody involved,” Brodhead said. “At the same time, you have certain skilled people that that’s what they do. You try to utilize their skills and strengths as best as you can.”
A secondary effect?
When junior guard Jaylyn Gordon was suspended indefinitely Jan. 26 for a violation of team rules, she was averaging 14.9 points, which currently stands second on the team.
Brodhead said Gordon’s progress as a defender during her first two seasons made that a big aspect of her game, which meant changes were necessary.
“When you lose those points, we had to make some changes,” Brodhead said. “But I honestly think that we are hurting a little more defensively. Jay was in her third year and was really good at defensive transition. We could get her to do some things to help Kia on the backside (rebounding).
“We took a number this weekend, and there were 30 non-blockouts on rebounds. That’s big. One of the things that (Gordon) bought into was, she would get four or five rebounds a game. We haven’t had anybody from the guard position do those things. We lost a little bit, but it’s an opportunity for someone else.”
Part of the pack
As the Cajuns approach their final two regular-season games, Brodhead said the lessons of last year’s conference tournament — including a quarterfinal win over Troy and a 63-61 semifinal loss to Arkansas State — have the Cajuns prepped to be in contention for the title.
“I feel confident that we have as good a chance as anybody to win the tournament,” he said. “You are looking at four or five teams that have that same opportunity. It’s the first year that we go into it with this much experience. That counts when you get to this level.
“Little Rock is playing well, and they are always kind of scary in the tournament. Coach (Joe) Foley always finds a way to play well in it. It’s kind of our forte, too: Get in the tournament, and you can get on a little run.”