LAFAYETTE — Within the relaxing atmosphere of Puerto Rico, Louisiana-Lafayette women’s basketball coach Garry Brodhead will be looking for persistence from his squad and a bit of patience.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (2-1) will take on their second SEC foe of the season when they tangle with Arkansas (2-2) at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Mario Morales Coliseum in Guaynabo in the San Juan Shootout. The Cajuns will then face the Sacred Heart Pioneers (0-3) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Coming off a 52-51 loss to Houston, the Cajuns made 10 of 20 free throws against the Cougars.
“That hurt us, and we missed a few layups, but you have to learn from it and get back at it,” Brodhead said. “We’re ready to go to the island and see what we can do against Arkansas and see if we can come away with a couple of wins.”
The Razorbacks have received the bulk of their scoring from 6-foot-3 junior forward Jessica Jackson, who is averaging 21.5 points and has made 12 of 27 from 3-point range. Jackson is her team’s lone double-figure scorer. She has nearly averaged a double-double so far by pulling down 9.8 rebounds per game. Kelsey Brooks and Jordan Danberry have chipped in 9.8 points and nine points a game, respectively.
“They are a half-court team,” Brodhead said. “Their transition game — they are not going to be like Ole Miss and Houston and try to get up and down the floor. They have got some size inside. They are going to try and pound it inside and their guards are looking to shoot the three.
“We will have to be a little more patient on the defensive side and try not to give up too much. It’s something we have been working on, so hopefully, we are going to be prepared for them.”
Freshmen Jordan Alexander and Breionne Cooper have provided some size inside to help the Cajuns beat their opponents on the boards by a 40-37 average.
“It seems like they are mature already,” Brodhead said. “Defensively, it usually takes awhile for what we are trying to teach. Both of them have caught on pretty well.
“I knew they were going to be good. I didn’t know how good they would be this early, We were hoping by the time conference (games) came around, they would be ready to give us a little bit of help, But they are already doing that.”
Junior guard Jaylyn Gordon leads the Cajuns in scoring at 16 ppg. Senior Keke Veal has added 14.3 and Kia Wilridge 14. One of the main motivators behind making the journey to Puerto Rico is to give the seniors a fun experience.
“We have never had an opportunity really to get on a trip for this long,” Brodhead said. “I did it mainly because I wanted to reward our seniors. But I don’t know how we will handle it. We finally have some maturity. I think it will help us to get away and bond a little more as a team.”
From what Brodhead has seen at recent practices, he believes the Cajuns will have a correct concentration on basketball when they are on an island. “Tuesday at practice they were really focused. It’s going to be our coaching staff’s responsibility to try to keep them focused. We’ll have some fun with it, too. We can learn a lot from culture and traveling and going into a different area. Most of out kids have never been on an island before.”
UL-LAFAYETTE MEN 106, LOYOLA 62: In Lafayette, Shawn Long recorded his third consecutive double-double with 25 points and 16 rebounds as he led five players in double figures and carried UL-Lafayette.
Jay Wright added 13 points and had three steals for the Cajuns (2-2) with Johnathan Stove and Tyrone Wooten scoring 11 each and Devonta Walker adding 10.
After allowing its last two opponents — Miami (Fla.) and Alabama — to shoot over the 50-percent mark from the field, the Ragin’ Cajuns returned home and turned in their best defensive effort of the season, holding Loyola to 30.3 percent (23 for 76) from the floor.
“I thought our defense was much better tonight,” UL-Lafayette coach Bob Marlin said. “We played our big lineup tonight and we were able to sit down and guard for the most part with the first group. When Jay (Hedgeman) and Jay Wright came out of the game, we weren’t quite as effective as we wanted to be and we had a little drop off. All in all, our defense was good.”