Cajuns Eliminated By Little Rock In Sun Belt Semifinal
The Ragin' Cajuns were one half away from playing in the Sun Belt Conference Championship, but Little Rock shut the door on their hopes in the second half of the tournament's semifinal game.
Defense was the name of the game for the entire first half. Little Rock went into the locker room with more turnovers (14) than made field goals (9), but they flipped that script on its head the rest of the way out. The Trojans shot almost 60 percent (13-22 FG, 59.1%) in the second half, running away in the fourth quarter for a 63-52 win.
It was a tough loss for a team that won 20 games in back to back seasons for the first time in program history. You have to give credit to Little Rock for shooting the lights out, but the 42 total fouls called in the game definitely didn't help the Cajuns.
Keke Veal fouled out of the game with two minutes left to play in the game, which is when Little Rock buried the Cajuns. She also had to sit out a solid portion of the third quarter with three fouls, which only helped the Trojans get into their groove on offense and defense.
After both teams combined for 25 turnovers in the first half, Little Rock only committed three the rest of the way out. Their defense turned up the intensity on the Cajuns down the stretch, never allowing Garry Brodhead's players much room to breath with the ball. Veal was the only player to hit a three point shot all day (team shot 1-10 from beyond the arc), and they ended the game with 19 total turnovers.
Little Rock fought fire with fire on the defensive end, and their approach worked.
It was a valiant performance from the Ragin' Cajun seniors. We will find out early next week if the Cajuns are going to head to postseason play, but if this was their last game, they made their coaches proud.
"They've changed what it means to play basketball for UL," Assistant Coach Katherine Katz said after the game.
Veal, who lead the team with 17 points (7-10 FG), was very emotional after the game. Having to watch the final two minutes of the game from the bench tore the fierce leader of the team apart. It's that same fire and passion that put her high up in the all-time statistical rankings as a Cajun. Her backcourt mate and fellow senior, Kia Wilridge, added 13 points, four rebounds and four assists in the effort as well (full box score).
Give credit to Little Rock for taking Simone Fields out of the game in the first half. They held the Cajuns' post presence scoreless in the first 20 minutes, and they found a way to get her into foul trouble with three whistles against her. She broke out for ten points in the second half, but the Cajuns couldn't find enough firepower to keep up with the offensive explosion on the opposite side of the court.
It wasn't that the Cajuns played poorly. Usually, when they shoot 43 percent from the floor and force 17 turnovers, they win. It just so happened Little Rock saved their best basketball for the final stretch.
This is Brodhead's first group of graduating seniors to be with him from the beginning. Veal, Wilridge, Adrienne Prejean, Brookyln Arceneaux and Jasmin Mills helped create a new standard for women's basketball in Lafayette. If they played their last game on Friday, it marks the end of the beginning of a new era for the Ragin' Cajuns. The bar has been set, and they set it awfully high.