LAFAYETTE — By building a wall around the perimeter, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette women’s basketball team was able to keep Georgia Southern’s point and turnover totals in a continual struggle to see which would reach 30 first.
The Eagles managed to put up 35 points, but UL-Lafayette forced 29 turnovers in a 62-35 win at the Cajundome on Saturday night.
The defensive effort by the Cajuns included shutting out the Eagles from long distance: They finished 0-for-9 from 3-point range.
“We were pressuring them to contain them,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “They weren’t as athletic as us. When we trapped them on screens, that was effective. We worked hard on keeping the ball out of the middle (of the court).”
That formula enabled the Cajuns to gradually build a 10-point lead during the first nine minutes. Keke Veal, who had a game-high 20 points, scored on a layup to make it 16-6 with 11 minutes left in the opening half. The Eagles later climbed within six points at 24-18, but guard Jaylyn Gordon canned a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to push the lead back to nine. The Cajuns held a 29-20 cushion at halftime.
“We just had it in our minds to go at it hard and do what we do,” Veal said.
What the Cajuns did during the early stages of the second half was score 10 of the first 12 points to change the margin to 39-22. Veal ended that push with a steal and a layup. When the Cajuns were not in a turnover and fast break situation, slowing down the Eagles in the half-court game came down to being alert and ready to move. “(The Eagles) are good at moving the ball, but we beat them to the spot,” Brodhead said. “We talk about defense a lot. You have to believe in it. To do 29 turnovers is pretty big.”
As the Cajuns increased the margin during the second half, some of the freshmen and sophomores were able to get a chance to make an impression on the coaching staff with a couple of contests left before the conference tournament. Sophomore forward Gabby Alexander grabbed four offensive rebounds as part of her seven-point and nine-rebound effort. “I told Gabby, Jodi (Quinn) and Alexis (Nezianya) I’m tired of watching them sit behind, and I want them to get noticed,” Brodhead said. “Gabby has been a work in progress. She is the most athletic kid we have. She has dunked a basketball. How many players in Division I can do that? Not many.”
The Cajuns flirted with pushing their lead to 30 points a few times during the last five minutes. Gordon made a 3-pointer to make it 59-30 with five minutes left. Quinn made a jumper from the top of the key with 2:46 remaining to account for the Cajuns final scoring. Veal and Kia Wilridge were the Cajuns’ double-figure scorers. Wilridge had 12 points and a pair of steals, as the Cajuns improved to 18-9 and 10-8 in the Sun Belt with the win. Georgia Southern fell to 4-23 and 1-17.
The Cajuns’ last home game is Thursday against first-place Arkansas-Little Rock (24-4. 17-2). UALR defeated the Cajuns 67-41 when the teams tangled in Little Rock, Arkansas on Dec. 30.