LAFAYETTE — When Taylor Washington let her first shot go against Texas-Arlington on Jan. 30, she had a couple of things in mind.
“I knew I had to be consistent; so if it was open, I had to shoot it,” Washington said.
Taking an extra step and asserting themselves has been part of the rulebook for less experienced players on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette women’s basketball team (16-5) during the past couple of weeks. When point guard Jaylyn Gordon was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules after a 56-53 win over Troy on Jan. 23, some of the scoring and ball-handling duties had to be reassigned. Washington’s initial bucket against the Mavericks got her started on a run that led to four more 3-ponters that day on the way to 19 points.
As Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead has adjusted lineups depending on certain matchups, guard Jodi Quinn has picked up additional minutes to provide her defensive skills. Guards Sylvana Okde and Washington have taken on more minutes in shooting-guard roles to allow seniors Kia Wilridge and Keke Veal to split the point-guard responsibilities.
“On defense, we rely on everybody to help out,” Brodhead said. “Everybody has their roles. You can make it an individual game (one person replacing another) or you can have more effort playing together.”
Part of that point-guard effort even involves Brooklyn Arceneaux, who is used to help relieve defensive pressure in certain press-break situations. Her height (5-foot-9) enables her to see over smaller guards in passing situations to advance the ball up the court.
“We feel comfortable with the ball in her hands,” Brodhead said. “We allow her to do certain things in press breaks to reverse the ball. It’s part of making sure we are not always predictable.”
For Wilridge, the change meant that someone who had played the point for three seasons before moving to more of an off-guard role had to go back to helping initiate the half-court offense at the top of the key. There was an adjustment period for a pair of games, as Wilridge searched for her proper shooting opportunities within the offense. A 2-for-13 night in a loss to Texas State was followed a couple of games later by a 4-for-6 effort in which Wilridge had eight points and seven rebounds in a win over Louisiana-Monroe.
“It helps to have that experience,” Brodhead said. “We made some adjustments to (point guard). Keke played a lot of it toward the end of last year, so she has always been kind of prepared for it. We move everybody around. We feel confident either one of them can handle those duties. Each one handles them in a little different way depending on matchups.”
Sophomore forward Simone Fields has upped her scoring in the paint during the past four games as the Cajuns registered a 2-2 split. That included 10 points in the Texas-Arlington win and a career-high 19 points and 10 rebounds against Louisiana-Monroe.
As for that first long-distance attempt from Washington against UT-Arlington, she was not the only one who saw it as a big step.
“There is no doubt that (opponents) seeing Taylor make some shots opened it up for Kia and Keke,” Cajuns assistant coach Deacon Jones said. “(Veal and Wilridge) are still going to get the same amount of shots. But will they be tough shots or be some shots they can make? Taylor making shots and Simone providing that inside presence helps Kia and Keke.”