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Women’s Basketball: Cajun women lose heartbreaker, 63-61

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, March 13, 2015


The tears in their eyes were more of an indication of how hard they fought than outright disappointment.

The occasional smile on his face during the postgame press conference showed how proud he was of that effort and what it means for the future.

Indeed, the No. 6-seeded UL Ragin’ Cajuns women’s basketball team finished out coach Garry Brodhead’s third season at the helm with two very impressive performances on the Sun Belt Conference’s biggest stage.

Two days after downing No. 3 Troy 66-52, Brodhead’s Cajuns were just an inch or so away from dancing into the Sun Belt Tournament finals when Jaylyn Gordon’s last-second, 3-pointer bounced off the iron for a heartbreaking 63-61 loss to No. 2-seeded Arkansas State on Friday afternoon at Lakefront Arena.

“As soon as the shot left her hands, I was already running down the court,” Brodhead said. “I knew it was going in.

“I’m not disappointed. It was a great game. We’re building a culture of winners. We’re not there yet, but we’re coming close.”

Arkansas State improved to 23-9 with the win and will meet UALR at 7 p.m. Saturday in the SBC finals. UL, meanwhile, ends its season at 19-12.

“That was the best I could ask for from my teammates,” said UL guard Kia Wilridge, who finished with 14 points, four rebounds and two steals. “It just didn’t fall in our favor this time.”

It was a game filled with quality stretches from both teams – punches and counterpunches. All told, there were 18 lead changes and 10 ties.

In a virtually impeccable performance, Brodhead felt the turning point was a non-blockout on a free throw as the game approached the two-minute warning. With UL leading 58-56, Khadi Brown-Haywood made one free throw and missed the second one.

But Brittney Gill made it a three-point trip for the Red Wolves with a rebound and putback for a 59-58 lead with 1:59 left.

ASU got it to 62-58 with two Aundrea Gamble free throws with 52.5 seconds left, but Gordon nailed a big 3 with 38.6 seconds left to cut it to 62-61.

It eventually came down to Hanna Qedan shooting two free throws with 9.9 seconds left. She made the first and missed the second one.

“When she missed the free throw, I felt pretty good,” Brodhead said.

With Keke Veal fouling out before Qedan‘s two free throws, a 3-pointer was probably UL’s best move and Gordon got an open look, but it didn‘t fall.

“We’re very relieved to get the win against a very, very, very talented Lafayette team,” ASU coach Brian Boyer said. “It shows the strength of the Sun Belt in women’s basketball this year. Lafayette is as good as anybody in this league and so is Troy.”

Once again, Wilridge led a charge against two-time SBC Player of the Year Aundrea Gamble, limiting her to 1-of-5 shooting from the field for eight points and four assists.

“They do a great job with help on defense and taking charges,” Gamble said. “Give them credit.”

On the other hand, the Cajuns continued to struggle with forward Jasmine Hunt, who had 15 points and nine rebounds. Overall, ASU outrebounded the Cajuns 33-19.

“I was just focused on being strong, taking it to the goal and focus on finishing,” Hunt said.

Brown-Haywood was the ASU complementary threat that made the biggest difference with 15 points and seven rebounds.

Veal delivers in a big way for the Cajuns again with 18 points, four rebounds, five assists and three steals.

“It was there (to win),” Veal said. “We slipped up. I felt like we should have won it.”

UL forced 15 turnovers while only committing five. The big difference in the game was ASU making 16 of 20 at the line, while the Cajuns only made three of six.

“I didn’t feel like we were playing poor defense at all (in first half),” Boyer said. “Their guards are just so quick. It’s very frustrating.

“You have to beat this team inside. You can’t beat this team off guard play, because their guards are so good.”

And perhaps the big reason Brodhead accepted the tough break of Gordon’s shot not falling is that Robbie Brown is the only senior departing the squad.

“I know for sure next year is going to be our year,” Wilridge said.

SBC Tourney Schedule

All games at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans

Wednesday’s Games

1-UALR 71, 8-Georgia State 54

4-Texas State 52, 5-UTA 46

2-Arkansas St. 67, 7-Appalachian St. 52

3-UL 66, 3-Troy 52

Friday’s Games

UALR 87, Texas State 44

UL ??, Arkansas State ?? ESPN3)

Saturday’s Game

UALR vs. TBA, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)