UL’s women’s basketball team will play five of its first six Sun Belt Conference games on the road, and Ragin’ Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead is trying to hold things together during a streak in which his team plays at the Cajundome only once in a 37-day streak.
“People don’t realize how hard it is to play on the road, these two-game road trips,” said Brodhead, whose squad will play its first home game since Dec. 16 on Thursday against league foe South Alabama. “It really makes it tougher at the beginning of conference play. It would be nice to have some home games and have a lot better chance at getting a head start.”
The Cajuns (8-5, 1-1) split their Sun Belt opening weekend, winning at Georgia State 75-65 and falling at Georgia Southern 83-67 on Thursday and Saturday. After Thursday’s game against the Jaguars (6-8, 1-1), UL will play three more road games — including an unusual travel weekend in which the Cajuns head to USA travel-partner Troy instead of the normal two-home-game weekend.
Later in the season, the Cajuns face USA in Mobile on a Thursday and then return home to meet Troy on a Saturday.
“I have no idea why the Sun Belt schedule is like that,” Brodhead said. “It would have made much more sense for us to play both of them at home this weekend and then travel to both later in the year.”
The travel vagaries aren’t as significant an issue as the health of the Cajuns squad. UL won at Georgia State on Thursday despite three starters unavailable — guards Jasmine Thomas (knee) and Brandi Williams (ankle) and forward Ty Doucet (head injury).
Williams, the Cajuns’ leading scorer (13.4) sprained her ankle in practice before Thursday’s win, and did play two days later at Georgia Southern. Doucet, the second-leading scorer (12.8) and leading rebounder (7.0) who hadn’t played since UL’s 53-42 win at Ole Miss on Dec. 20, also returned on Saturday.
Point guard Thomas, though, will be out for an extended period after partially tearing an MCL ligament in a road loss at Jackson State on Dec. 29.
“We’re rehabbing and seeing what it looks like a couple of weeks from now,” Brodhead said. “She’s walking better already with the rehab, and in her mind she wants to rehab and play again this year. She was just getting herself in shape after hurting her other knee last year, she’d been playing better and better in practice.”
The depleted Cajuns hit eight 3-pointers and shot 47% as a field with four players in double figures, and also held Georgia State to 36% shooting in their first league-opening win since 2015. Two nights later, though, Georgia Southern put on a 3-point clinic, hitting six of nine in the first quarter and finishing the game with 14 treys.
“I don’t think anyone would have beaten them (Georgia Southern) the way they played and shot it,” Brodhead said. “They were shooting something like 25% from three going into our game. And it wasn’t like we were sitting back in a zone, they were just making everything.
“We scored 67 points, and that’s enough for us to win, and we shot 40% from the field (39.3) and we never lose when we shoot around 40%. It was just one of those days, and we just have to work through it.”
South Alabama was in a logjam at the top of the Sun Belt’s preseason poll, picked fourth in the voting but only eight points out of the top spot (Little Rock was the favorite at 127, Troy at 123, UTA at 120 and USA at 119). But the Jaguars have lost two of their past three, including a 71-62 home conference loss to Coastal Carolina Saturday, and have only won more than one in a row once this year.
“They’re really good, but they’re not playing as good as we expected them to play,” Brodhead said. “They’re not scoring like I thought they would. People are guarding them different ways, but they’ve got a lot of talent.”