UL-Lafayette women relish chance to play McNeese State _lowres

File photo by Brad Kemp/RaginCajuns.com UL-Lafayette point guard Kia Wilridge was named to the second-team All-Sun Belt Conference preseason team on Tuesday.

LAFAYETTE — The Ragin’ Cajuns’ race to reach the 10-win line in Sun Belt play might include putting the pedal to the metal on Saturday night.

When the Louisiana-Lafayette women’s basketball team hosts Georgia Southern at 5 p.m. at the Cajundome, the Cajuns (17-9 and 9-8 in the SBC) will face an opponent that has a frontline of Patrice Butler and Briana Jones, who are each 6-foot-2. Guard Anna Claire Knight is 5-foot-10.

“They have some good height, and they have some good guard play,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “They are not extremely athletic, so it kind of creates a little problem for them to guard us.”

The Cajuns average 61.7 points a game. They managed to top that by seven in a 69-57 victory when the teams tangled in January in Statesboro, Georgia. Guard Keke Veal scored a game-high 22 points for the Cajuns. Knight had 19 points for the Eagles (4-22, 1-16), but the Cajuns forced 22 turnovers and committed 10. It marked one of the 17 times in 25 games that the Cajuns have forced an opponent to commit at least 20 turnovers.

“It looks like an opportunity for us to play the game that we want to in the full court,” Brodhead said.

Guards Jaylyn Gordon, Veal and Kia Wilridge have continued to be the top three scorers for the squad. Gordon leads the way with a 14 point average, Veal is next at 13.4 and Wilridge has chipped in 12.3 points a game in addition to leading the conference in steals with 2.9 a game.

“We’ve been pushing and running our offense in transition really well, so we’ll try to do that … I think it’s a good matchup for us,” Brodhead said.

With the conference tournament waiting a couple of weeks away, the Cajuns hold the sixth seed. They could move up a couple of spots closer to Arkansas State and Arkansas-Little Rock.

“I think if we win 10 games, we will be in the five or six spot in the seeds,” Brodhead said. “But it could change. Everybody is kind of bottled up in the middle of the conference. I really believe that 10 wins would get us at least a six seed, which wouldn’t be bad, depending on whom finishes third.”

The Cajuns have reached the edge of that mark thanks to a defense that has limited opponents to 60.5 points a game in conference contests. The team also ranks seventh in the nation in turnover margin — having forced 6.8 more turnovers per game than their opponents. Aside from the numerical goal of 10 conference wins, the game against the Eagles gives the Cajuns another chance to test themselves.

“It seems like every game that we have been coming up to has been a big game and a big challenge,” Brodhead said. “I look at our program, and that’s all we want. We want challenges. Every day that we have a challenge, that means we’re doing something.”