For most of Sunday afternoon’s nonconference matchup against Southeastern, the UL women’s basketball team just couldn’t get a shot to fall.
Then just when the visiting Lions took their biggest lead of the night, coach Garry Brodhead’s Cajuns finally caught fire.
Trailing 32-26 midway through the fourth quarter, the Cajuns went on a 17-4 run and that was enough to carry UL to a 60-50 victory over Southeastern at the Cajundome.
“We decided we’d start pressing and try to create some turnovers to try to help our offense,” Brodhead said. “Shooting 21 percent in the first quarter was tough, especially not having any free throws. We just couldn’t get going. It looked like we were uncomfortable.”
The decisive run, which left UL leading 43-34 with 8:30 left in the game, began with four straight free throws from sophomore sharpshooter Brandi Williams. The former Barbe High product made all 12 of her free throws in the game.
“I really practice on my free throws,” Williams said. “It’s something I was really good at growing up. I really take my time. I don’t focus on the crowd or anything.”
Add a trio of 3-pointers and Williams finished the game with 25 points and nine rebounds in 36 minutes.
“She’s just a pure shooter,” Brodhead said. “She’s one of the only kids that we really haven’t changed her shot since she got here. It’s a little awkward in a way, the way she shoots it, but it goes in.
“When she gets more comfortable looking to score, you’re going to see that she can be an even bigger scorer. She’s still a little passive. We’ve been kind of on her to be more aggressive and to look to score more. I’m impressed. She’s got all the tools to be a big-time scorer.”
Williams’ big day was necessary after UL made only 23.8 percent of its field goal tries in the first half and things weren’t going much better early in the third quarter. But after Williams’ four free throws, Diamond Morrison made a 3-pointer to get the Cajuns within one at 34-33 with 3:41 left in the third quarter.
Andrea Cournoyer then produced a leaning three-point play to give UL its first lead at 36-34 with 2:59 left in the third.
“We just decided to start pressing and created some turnovers,” Brodhead said. “I think it sped them up and took them out of their defense. They were playing that sagging man-to-man. They were way off. We just couldn’t find the gaps. By speeding them up, it made them come out and cover us a little more. It put them in a different position on the defensive side, and it created more offense for us.”
Thanks to that big 17-4 push, the Cajuns led throughout the fourth quarter.
The Cajuns (3-1) ended up shooting 31.9 percent for the game, but UL did make 5 of its 12 tries behind the line. In addition to Williams’ three 3-pointers, Morrison and and Cournoyer made one each.
UL outrebounded SLU 37-34 for the game and forced 19 turnovers to 15 for the Cajuns. The biggest difference, however, was at the free-throw line where UL made 25 of 36 attempts, while the Lions made 2 of 5.
Southeastern (0-3) only had one double-figures scorer —Jyar Francis with 15 points. The Lions finished shooting 38.9 percent from the field.
Skyler Goodwin added nine points and three rebounds as UL’s second-leading scorer.
“Sometimes it looks kind of ugly,” Brodhead said. “We’re playing them (young players) to get more comfortable. It’s not fun. It’s a tough situation, but I think they’re going to get better by having the opportunity to play. They’re going to make a lot of mistakes, but I’d rather make them early on. Hopefully by the time we get to conference, we’ll have those 10 kids more comfortable playing together.”