LAFAYETTE — The University of Louisiana at Lafayette women’s basketball team is hoping equal amounts of patience and pressure will push them past Troy on the third try.
When sixth-seeded UL-Lafayette takes on third seed Troy in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference tournament at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, the Cajuns will look to take down the Trojans after losing to them twice during the regular season.
Within a pair of five-point losses (60-55 and 68-63), the Cajuns managed to use their pressure defense to hold the Trojans significantly under their league-leading 77.3 points per game average. However, the Cajuns made 29 percent of their field goals the first time and 30 percent in the rematch.
“We can’t settle for the first 3-pointer we get,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “We have to get dribble penetration inside. That 3 that we get early (in the shot clock), we can get it late.”
The Cajuns will face a Troy team that made a late-season push to reach the 20-win mark. The Trojans are 20-9 overall and 15-5 in the SBC. The Cajuns completed the regular season at 18-11 and 10-10.
Troy is riding an eight-game win streak into the tournament — largely fueled by the inside-outside combo of guard Ashley Beverly-Kelley and senior forward Ronita Garrett.
Beverly-Kelley ranks second in the conference in scoring with a 17.7 average. Garrett has 21 double-doubles this season. She averages 16 points and 11.3 rebounds. That duo accounts for 44 percent of Troy’s offense.
“You don’t want to get into a running game with them,” Cajun associate head coach Sallie Guillory said. “We have to defend against their strengths and pick our spots to run (offensively) and press (defensively). Garrett is their leading rebounder. She is hungry for success. She is a senior. We have to try to keep her off the boards and get her in foul trouble.”
Although the Cajuns were able to draw five fouls on Garrett at the Cajundome in January, she chipped in six points and 10 rebounds. Troy guard Aissata Maiga helped pick up the slack by scoring 14 points.
When the teams met in Alabama on Valentine’s Day, both Beverly-Kelley and Garrett stayed on the floor. Beverly-Kelley had 20 points. Garrett had 14 points and 19 rebounds to help offset the output by Keke Veal and Kia Wilridge, who combined for 38 points. Both Veal and Wilridge average just under 13 points a game.
“Beverly-Kelley can get to the rim and she is good in transition,” Guillory said. “We have to find her early and stop her.”
With both teams looking at a goal of winning three games in four days, there might typically be a tendency to slow the pace to conserve energy. But the Cajuns might have drawn the one opponent who will bypass that idea.
“I think these games would naturally slow down except for Troy,” Brodhead said. “They really want to shoot it every 10 or 15 seconds. They have been pretty effective at what they do.”