LAFAYETTE — Excitement about the end of final exams was not limited to the Louisiana-Lafayette women’s basketball team.
As the Ragin’ Cajuns prepare for a game against NAIA opponent Dillard at the Cajundome at 2 p.m. Saturday, coach Garry Brodhead had his own reasons to be energetic regarding his 5-1 squad finishing those academic duties.
“This is a great time of the year, once these finals are done,” Brodhead said. “We get to do two-a-day (practices) and have stuff that we really love to do in the gym. So we are excited about the direction we are going and how hard our kids are working.”
The workload through six games has included a Sun Belt win over ULM to give the Cajuns a solid start in conference play.
The arrival of Dillard marks the first of three games in seven days, a span that will include another home contest Tuesday UC-Santa Barbara before the Cajuns finish the week with a road trip to Louisiana Tech.
“I come from my high school (coaching) days where you took those exams and you come back to district games and you couldn’t catch the ball,” Brodhead said. “I am a firm believer that any break you have in basketball is tough to kind of get it going. So you want to have a tuneup game to get things going.”
The first step is against a Dillard team that’s 5-6 and is coming off a 71-69 win over Loyola. Alena Evans, a 5-foot-10 senior from Las Vegas, leads the Bleu Devils in scoring and rebounding, averaging 17.6 points and 7.6 rebounds.
Evans had 25 points and made 11 of 12 free throws against Loyola. Alyssa Washington and Keona Favis each chipped in 16 points.
“They have some guards that can play and really score,” Brodhead said. “Talking to the ULM coach (Jeff Dow) before that game, he said, ‘You better not take them lightly because they can score.’ They can get up and down the floor. They are very athletic. So it will be a challenge for us coming out of finals. We are finally at home, which is great for us.”
The Cajuns have puzzled opponents at home and on the road, ranking third in the country in turnover margin at plus-10.5. The Cajuns have reached double figures in steals three times, most recently against ULM (11).
Some of those opponent turnovers have come through offensive fouls when the Cajuns have drawn charges through a group effort. “You have to have a belief that your teammate is back there,” Brodhead said. “We work on it daily knowing that we are going to have big-time help (defensively). With a player like Breionne Cooper, it’s a different story. She is so long and can block shots. We didn’t have that before. We had Brooklyn Arceneaux stepping over and taking the charge. Against ULM, Brooklyn had three charges (taken).
“The NCAA doesn’t take stats on charges. We do. We are averaging five a game, and that is what we preach.”
Within the whirlwind of exams and an upcoming three-game stretch, having five wins in the bank — including two over Southeastern Conference opponents Ole Miss and Arkansas — has provided an energy boost.
“There is no better time to be a Cajun and be back in Lafayette for us,” Brodhead said. “Sports are supposed to be fun, and we are enjoying it.”