When UL-Lafayette’s women’s basketball team was in the midst of three straight games against SEC competition in December, there wasn’t much thought about winning streaks.
Nine straight losses and a 2-11 record put a damper on those thoughts, but the Ragin’ Cajuns have since won two in a row, battled back to even up their Sun Belt Conference record and have a chance to make it three in a row Saturday when they host state rival UL-Monroe to wrap up a three-game Sun Belt homestand.
What’s the difference from the early-season Cajuns, who lost to several teams that would not be described as women’s basketball powers, to the team that swept Georgia State and Georgia Southern last week?
“They’ve never let down in practice,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “In this day and age when people want to see instant results, it’s easy to get down when that doesn’t happen. But they never stopped working, and now to get those results, they seem a lot more bought-in, especially the young kids.”
It’s that youth that has led the resurgence for a UL-Lafayette squad that doesn’t have a single senior, only one junior playing significant minutes — first-year transfer Kendall Bess — and no one above sophomore rank in the starting lineup.
Sophomores Ty’Reona Doucet and backup Jomyra Mathis combined for 39 points for the Cajuns (4-11, 2-2) in last Thursday’s 57-54 win over Georgia State. Two afternoons later, the freshman class scored 46 points in the Cajuns' 59-48 win over Georgia Southern, including a career-high 25 points from Lake Charles freshman Brandi Williams.
Those upsurges have been particularly important given the loss of two projected junior starters — forward Jasmine Thomas (knee injury) and Kim Burton (pregnancy) — before the season began.
“We have to change on the go with a young team,” Brodhead said, “and it’s especially important for the young players to believe in what we’re doing. When we had success last week, you could see when they got back to practice that they were more sold on what we were showing them.”
Doucet, a product of Ville Platte, had to carry the early load and started the season with a school-record six straight double-double performances. But despite one of those double-doubles coming at Auburn and a 20-point, 15-rebound outing at Ole Miss, better teams began to defend the sophomore differently and used switching defenses to limit her offensive production.
That put pressure on the perimeter, where the Cajuns had sophomore and returning leading scorer Skyler Goodwin of Baton Rouge-Parkview Baptist, inexperienced sophomore Mathis and a group of untested freshmen.
Williams was a highly regarded recruit out of Barbe High, and Andrea Cournoyer scored 5,500 career points at Merryville, so Brodhead knew he had offensive potential in his newcomer class.
“Freshmen are going to be inconsistent; that’s part of their DNA,” he said. “But you can see Brandi becoming more consistent in what she’s doing, and Andrea’s made a big adjustment to playing college. I love coaching them. It’s going to take some time for them to get consistent, but we’re starting to see improvement.”
Williams (11.6) is second on the team in scoring while Cournoyer (9.5) is third along with leading UL-Lafayette in steals and in assists for each of the past two games. The two combined for five 3-pointers last Saturday and went 9 for 9 from the line down the stretch when the Cajuns were clinging to a single-digit lead.
"They (Georgia Southern) went to a zone and they both had open shots,” Brodhead said. “Brandi took advantage of some gaps and she can do that. She’s the type of kid that’s very talented with the ball in her hands and she’s got to score for us.”