LAFAYETTE — About this time a year ago, the Ragin’ Cajuns women’s basketball program had never beaten Louisiana Tech.
Never, as in not once. Thirty-nine straight meetings ended with Cajuns losses. It was U-G-L-Y.
The Lady Techsters had invaded Southwest Louisiana 15 times — several times, according to Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead, without coach Leon Barmore, who apparently had better things to do than worry about coaching his team to a lopsided win in Lafayette.
“(Barmore) wouldn’t even come down for the conference game,” Brodhead said. “He would just send his assistants because our programs were so bad compared to what they had.”
Those first 39 games were laughably one-sided. The first game the teams played against each other, in January 1976, resulted in a 106-34 Cajuns loss — the first of four losses in the series by 70 or more points.
The Cajuns lost by 40 or more points 27 times in the first 39 meetings, a failure in mind-boggling terms.
At one point, the teams shared a conference, which meant they had to play twice per year, which can lead to a depressing game deciding which back-to-back calendar years were the most lopsided. For the record, it was definitely 1996-97, when they played each other five times and Louisiana Tech won by the following margins: 75, 71, 52, 47 and 53.
Only twice — a 50-42 loss in 1986 and a 51-44 loss in 2013 that ended a nine-year hiatus in the series — did the Cajuns ever finish within 10 points of the Lady Techsters. Two times in four decades the Cajuns finished relatively close.
So, about this time a year ago, the Cajuns had the weight of all that terrible history on their shoulders.
About this time a year ago, the Cajuns were women’s college basketball nobodies, a program that had just as many seasons with one or fewer total wins (two) as it did first-place conference finishes.
A lot can change in a year, huh?
Game No. 40 in the Louisiana Tech/Louisiana-Lafayette series ended, finally, in favor of the Cajuns. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the Cajuns would go on to win 23 games last season, second-most in school history.
“Any time you can beat somebody you haven’t beat before, you can make a step forward,” Brodhead said.
For what it’s worth, Brodhead could feel it coming before the rest of us. He saw what he had started to build taking shape.
For the rest of us, the Louisiana Tech win served as a definitive marking point of the turnaround of Brodhead’s program, which is 30-13 since the start of last season — the best 43-game stretch in program history.
It doesn’t matter that Louisiana Tech’s program, a perennial championship contender for decades, is no longer what it used to be. That one win said something was possible that nearly 40 years of history said wasn’t, and now the Cajuns have sprung into a new and exciting future.
A future that’s not likely to include a day off for Louisiana Tech’s head coach.
“We’ve improved,” Brodhead said. “We recruit against them a lot. ... I think we have one of the top programs in Louisiana right now at this point.”
Imagine that. It would’ve seemed far-fetched after watching most of the previous 39 matchups between the Cajuns and Lady Bulldogs. Now it’s real, it’s happening, and now the Cajuns can go for another couple of firsts in this series Saturday night in Ruston.
A road win, and even better, a winning streak.