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Women’s Basketball: Dominant First Half Pushes Cajuns Past Ole Miss, 82-78

Jaylyn Gordon

 

OXFORD, MS – A 19-point first half from junior Jaylyn Gordon opened a 20-point halftime lead for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns women’s basketball team, who defeated Ole Miss for the first time in program history, 82-78 Sunday night in their 2015-16 regular season opener at Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford.

The victory was the first for the Cajuns over an SEC school since Nov. 25, 2006 when they topped South Carolina, 83-68 in Columbia.  

"It’s a great win for us," Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Garry Brodhead said. "Beating an SEC opponent like Ole Miss and what they are trying to build. It is great to have great confidence heading into the season. It is continuation of what we did in the WBI, can we take the next step. These kids believe in one another and do what it takes to get the win.  

Gordon led the way with 29 points on 7-of-17 shooting (4-of-9 from three-point) from the floor. The 29 points for the Edgard, La., native tied her career high. Senior guard Keke Veal collected 18 points, while freshman Breionne Cooper provided eight points, six rebounds and two blocks in 15 reserve minutes.  

A fast start propelled the Cajuns to a 7-0 lead in the first 2:40 of the game. Leading 4-0, redshirt senior Brooklyn Arceneaux started and finished a three-point play, placing the Rebels in the seven-point hole.

Gordon came back to score the Cajuns next five points, helping Louisiana maintain a five-point advantage at 12-5.

Ole Miss went off on a mini 8-5 run to close to within 17-13 with 2:08 left in the opening stanza, but a pair of threes from Gordon and senior guard Keke Veal and a layup by sophomore Simone Fields opened a 12-point lead.

The Cajuns maintained a double-digit lead midway through the second quarter and began to run away with under 30 seconds left in the first half. Eight unanswered points were ignited by Gordon and freshman Jordan Alexander which opened a 46-23 cushion for Louisiana.

In the second quarter, the Cajuns outscored the Rebels, 21-11 with nine of their points coming from the second unit.

Louisiana maintained its 20-point lead through the first 6:45 of the third quarter before Ole Miss made it a 17-point contest going into the fourth.

Veal opened the final 10 minutes of action and scored on a layup. She drew the foul to complete a three-point play, which gave the Cajuns a commanding 69-49 lead.

However, the Rebels made a comeback, running off nine points in 3:19 to close the gap to 71-58 with 6:09 to play.

Cajuns senior guard Kia Wilridge responded with a pair of buckets to bump Louisiana’s lead back to 14, but Ole Miss answered with a three-pointer by Kiara Golden, setting up the final 3:17 of the contest.

With just over two minutes left, the Rebels’ Torri Lewis splashed a three-pointer and later deposited a pair of free throws cutting the Cajuns’ lead to 75-69.

Veal came back on the next possession and drove the length of the court and dropped in a layup, which bumped the lead back to eight at 77-69 with 1:27 remaining.

Six possessions later after Gordon split a pair of free throws to make it an 80-75 game, Ole Miss continued to stick around, getting a three-pointer from Madinah Muhammad with nine seconds on the clock. On the inbounds pass, Ole Miss fouled freshman Jordan Alexander, who put the game on ice with a pair of free throw makes to preserve the 82-78 victory.

"We were able to control the tempo in the first half, push it when we needed it," Brodhead said. "I thought we were able to be a little more patient offensively and defensively we kept them off balance in the first half. We played good defense to hold them to 26 in the first half.

"I thought we did a great job of making a few free throws at the end to finish the game off," Brodhead said. "This is what we look for in championship teams – we were able to weather the storm when the opposing team is coming for you like Ole Miss did in the second half.

The Cajuns shot 40% (24-of-60) from the floor and knocked down six three-pointers.

The opening day win was the seventh in the past eight seasons for Louisiana.

The Ragin’ Cajuns women’s basketball team will look to start out 2-0 against Southern-New Orleans at Earl K. Long Gym next Thursday, November 19 for a 7 p.m. tip-off.