After frustrating two first-team All-Sun Belt Conference players in a quarterfinal victory against Troy, the Louisiana-Lafayette women’s basketball team gets to tackle the league’s Player of the Year in the semifinals.
Arkansas State’s Aundrea Gamble earned that honor earlier this week for the second consecutive season, leading the Sun Belt with 19.1 points per game and finishing second in assists with an average of 5.1.
The sixth-seeded Ragin’ Cajuns (19-11) and second-seeded Red Wolves (22-9) play Friday at 2 p.m. at Lakefront Arena.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” UL-Lafayette coach Garry Brodhead said. “She (Gamble)’s tough to stop, but we’ve done that before. It’s going to be our focus to do that again.”
Gamble had her worst game of the season when the Ragin’ Cajuns beat Arkansas State 69-57 at the Cajundome on Jan. 22, finishing with four points on 2-of-11 shooting while committing six turnovers. That’s become UL-Lafayette’s modus operandi in taking down quality opponents.
The Cajuns limited Troy post player Ronita Garrett to six points and eight rebounds on Wednesday night, far below her season averages of 16.0 points and 11.3 rebounds. They harassed Troy guard and fellow first-team All-Sun Belt selection Ashley Beverly-Kelley into an 8-for-25 shooting night.
A victory would put UL-Lafayette into the Sun Belt championship game for the third time in school history.
“At home we played (Arkansas State) really well,” Brodhead said. “We pushed the ball down the floor and pressed them a little bit in the first half and got them to turn it over. We got some easy buckets and went to the free throw line a lot.”
The rematch was a different story. Arkansas State won 87-65 last Saturday in the regular season finale for both teams. Gamble did not hurt the Cajuns, but forwards Jasmine Hunt and Khadi Brown-Haywood combined to go 15-of-19 from the field.
“We didn’t defend as well as we could and didn’t play our defense when we went there,” Cajuns guard Keke Veal said. “We fouled them a lot. We just have to get ready for them.”
Veal is coming off a tremendous game when she had 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals against Troy. Simone Fields, Kia Wilridge and Jaylyn Gordon joined Veal in double figures, while Gabby Alexander contributed seven points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Brodhead is hoping for a similar balanced effort on Friday, and he put more stock in the win against Arkansas State at home than the loss on the road.
“We’ll change some things up compared to what we did at Arkansas State,” he said. “I don’t know if y’all have been to a game at Arkansas State, but you’re not going to the free throw line a lot. That’s how it goes.”