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Women’s Basketball: Cajuns make history with road win over WKU

UL makes history with road win over WKU
Cajuns move into first place in conference

UL’s women’s basketball team made history Sunday, and that normally would have been enough. But the shockingly easy humbling of Western Kentucky’s Lady Toppers made Sunday afternoon a landmark date for the program.

The Ragin’ Cajuns stormed to as much as a 14-point lead before halftime, and Western never cut the margin to single digits in the second half as UL posted a head-turning 77-64 victory at Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky.

The win was the Cajuns’ first-ever win at Diddle Arena and only their second-ever in 31 games against the Sun Belt Conference rival Lady Toppers. More importantly in the short term, the win put UL (14-5, 6-2) within one game of first place in the Sun Belt’s Western Division.

"Our kids were aware of all that," said Cajun coach J. Kelley Hall. "They knew that we hadn’t won here, and they knew Western had a 27 RPI coming in. This is a win over a very good team."

It was also a win the Cajuns controlled virtually from start to finish. UL bolted out to 11-2 and 14-4 leads, and after Western rallied to take its only lead of the game at 25-23, the Cajuns went on a 16-0 blitz to take control late in the first half and take the crowd of 2,031 out of the contest.

"They’ve got a great home-court advantage here," said co-head coach Meredith Hall. "Our girls knew how good Western was, and they came in excited. They did exactly what we said we needed to do."

Western (10-5, 4-2), last year’s Sun Belt regular-season champions, had won four straight and eight of its last 10 with the only losses coming to nationally-ranked teams. The Lady Toppers’ only home-court loss this year also came to a nationally-ranked team in Vanderbilt (86-78 back on Nov. 16).

It appeared that home court might have the desired effect midway through the first half after UL’s 11-2 early lead. Western’s Crystal Kelly, who finished with a season-high 34 points, had 14 points in a six-minute span and most of a 22-12 WKU run, and her three-point play at the 9:00 mark of the first half gave the Toppers a 24-23 lead.

Dominique Duck added a free throw moments later when UL’s Jeanenne Colbert picked up her third foul for a two-point advantage, but Whitney Dunlap’s driving layup tied the game with 8:09 left and kick-started the 16-0 run.

Onna Charles had two three-pointers in that surge, the last of which gave UL a 39-25 lead with 4:10 showing. WKU cut it to 39-30 before two straight Cajun baskets provided a 43-30 halftime lead, and Alicia McDaniel’s three-pointer to open the second half made it a 16-point game.

"We knew we were going to have to make shots," Kelley Hall said. "They tried to trap us early and we were able to shred it."

The closest the Toppers got was 10 points with 9:05 left on a Kelly three-point play, and UL responded with a 9-2 run.

"We can’t physically keep Kelly from catching down low," Kelley Hall said of WKU’s stellar post player. "She’s good enough to get her 30, and we wanted to stop the rest of them. We tried to shut the rest of them down with our match-up, and we were able to spread our fouls out."

The plan worked. Dominique Duck added 17 points for Western, but the rest of the WKU roster managed only 13. Western hit only 35.7 percent from the field (20-of-56) and three-of-21 three-pointers, and other than Kelly and Duck the rest of the Toppers went four-for-29 for the entire game. And UL had no foul-outs even though three players finished with four fouls and three finished with three.

Yolanda Jones had 11 first-half points on the way to 16 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, posting her 10th double-double of the season and the 25th of her career. Charles had 15 points including 3-for-3 treys and Jeanenne Colbert had 14.

Jones’ effort helped UL take a 41-33 rebound advantage. The Cajuns, the league’s worst free-throw shooting team, hit 21-of-27 from the line.

"This team’s beginning to come together and feed off each other," Meredith Hall said. "All of them have a role and they took care of their roles today, and that’s why we won."

Women’s basketball Sun Belt standings

 

Sun Belt Overall

West Division W L W L

Arkansas State 6 1 12 5

UL 6 2 14 5

Ark.-Little Rock 5 3 12 6

Denver 4 2 9 6

UL Monroe 3 4 13 5

North Texas 1 4 4 11

New Orleans 1 7 7 12

East Division W L W L

Middle Tennessee 7 0 15 3

Western Kentucky 4 2 10 5

Fla. International 3 4 9 8

South Alabama 3 4 9 8

Troy 2 5 9 8

Fla. Atlantic 0 6 4 14