UL-Lafayette’s women’s basketball squad missed out on a first-round bye in the Sun Belt Conference tournament by a couple of games, but to Ragin’ Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead, that’s a good thing.
“I kind of like slipping in from the back side,” Brodhead said Monday as his club prepares for a first-round game in the league tournament at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans. "Everyone’s talking about Little Rock, Troy, Texas State. … I like people not paying much attention to us.”
The Cajuns (15-15, 10-8) are the No. 6 seed and will play Tuesday’s 7:30 p.m. finale against No. 11 seed Georgia Southern (5-24, 2-16). A Tuesday win would put them against No. 3 seed Texas-Arlington in a quarterfinal at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
UL-Lafayette entered last year’s tournament as the fifth seed and proceeded to win three games on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, beating fourth-seeded Texas State and top-seeded Little Rock along the way, before falling to third seed Troy in the finals.
“It’s not a physical thing, because it’s so spread out,” Brodhead said. “It’s a mental thing. I think we’ll have an advantage if we get to Thursday because we’ll have a game under our belt. The problem is playing the Saturday-Sunday, that bothered us last year, but early in the tournament I think it’s an advantage.”
Little Rock (20-9, 17-1) is the top seed for the third time in four years, but the Trojans and Cajuns demonstrated on Saturday how close the top eight seeds are entering the 12-team tournament. UL-Lafayette led Little Rock for 30 of the 45 minutes before the Trojans rallied to force overtime in what became a 72-63 win over the Cajuns in the regular-season finale.
The Trojans and the other three top seeds — No. 2 Texas State, UTA and No 4 and defending champion Troy — don’t play until Thursday’s quarterfinal round against Tuesday’s first-round survivors.
The Cajuns beat Georgia Southern 58-48 in Statesboro on Feb. 10 in their only meeting of the season. Jasmine Thomas had 15 points and Troi Swain 14 with both hitting three 3-pointers in that game, and All-Sun Belt third-team selection Simone Fields came off the bench with 12 points and seven rebounds. But Brodhead said the biggest key will be matching his team’s first-game defensive effort, after the Cajuns held the Eagles to 25 percent shooting (15 of 60).
“We were out really covering them,” he said. “Normally against most teams they get a lot of wide-open looks, but we did a good job of getting out high, bodying up and making them try to penetrate. That’s something they’re not used to.”