Depth has already proven to be a big plus for UL’s women’s basketball team, and that’s a luxury for Ragin’ Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead.
His 1-0 squad had 10 players see double-figure minutes Thursday in a 67-51 home win over Loyola-New Orleans, and three other returnees from last season also saw limited action in a game the Cajuns controlled over the final three periods.
Brodhead didn’t have that last year when an injury-racked squad struggled to a 7-23 mark. This year, 11 Cajuns have significant experience in the UL program, and three promising freshmen give Brodhead his deepest squad in his eight-year tenure.
“I’m not sure I know how to coach this group,” Brodhead joked after UL’s season-opening win. “Last year we were so limited with what we could do, and now this year we have to figure out ways to take advantage of this and find roles for everyone, because right now all of them deserve a shot.”
The Cajuns will go up against another deep squad Sunday when they hit the road for the first time, traveling to face Sam Houston State (1-0) in a 3 p.m. tipoff at Johnson Coliseum in Huntsville, Texas. The Bearkats rolled to a 91-49 win over outmanned Howard Payne on Wednesday when the SHSU bench outscored the starters 53-38. Twelve players saw action and backup Jennifer Oramas led the squad with 19 points and six assists off the bench.
It was a similar story for the Cajuns on Thursday, with returning starters Andrea Cournoyer and Ty’reona Doucet coming off the bench to score 11 and nine points in only 26 combined minutes and freshman Makayia Hallmon adding eight in her collegiate debut.
Brodhead had forward Kim Burton and point guard Jasmine Thomas in the starting lineup after both 2017-18 starters missed all of last season with medical issues. They combined for only 11 points, but the Cajuns coach was looking for more than offensive output from that pair.
“You can tell the difference when they’re out there,” Brodhead said. “Jasmine and Kim give us such great leadership and you can see how the rest of our players react when they’re there, they’re a lot more relaxed. The two of them missed it so much not playing last year, and you can tell that they’re hungry.”
Junior guard Skyler Goodwin, who also missed part of last season with injuries, led the balanced scoring attack with 12 points as UL’s bench also outscored the starters 34-33.
Goodwin, Doucet and returning Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year Brandi Williams all missed the 73-65 exhibition opener win over Mississippi College last week, as did returning guard Jomyra Mathis who is still battling an ankle injury. That put some of the newcomer group into action earlier than Brodhead would have preferred, but he also got a chance to see how much that group has bought into UL’s defense-minded philosophy.
“Some of the freshman kids have to quit fouling,” Brodhead said after the Cajuns forced 21 turnovers and held Loyola to a 34.6 overall shooting mark and never more than 40 percent in any period. “They’re not used to getting all those hand-check calls against them. But I do think they’re going to help us be a little bit tougher this year. We lost some games last year when we didn’t do the little things that we did tonight.”
Sunday’s game will continue a busy season-opening stretch for the Cajuns, who host McNeese on Thursday and Southeastern on Sunday. UL dropped a 68-62 decision to Sam Houston at the Cajundome last December after leading in the final four minutes.