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Women’s Basketball: UL’s Edwards keys NCAA run

Cajuns ready on stand out on ESPN stage

UL women’s basketball team started hitting its stride in early January, and coach J. Kelley Hall has a good idea why.

"When we started winning a lot of games, you can directly attribute that to Sonora Edwards becoming more consistent," Hall said. "It’s like a light bulb came on for her. We needed her badly, and she’s improved in leaps and bounds."

During the last 10 games in the regular season, the 6-foot-2 junior from Snook, Texas, had double-figure scoring efforts seven times and averaged 9.3 rebounds. But it was one shot, a winning basket with six seconds left against Arkansas State in the Sun Belt Tournament semifinal, that may have been the biggest in UL earning its first NCAA Tournament berth.

That berth comes Saturday when the 11th-seeded Cajuns (25-8) meet sixth-seeded Marquette (25-6) in a first-round NCAA game in Austin, Texas. And once again, the Cajuns will be looking for a major contribution from Edwards against a talented Golden Eagle team that finished tied for second in the Big East Conference.

"They’ve got lots of players with size," Edwards said. "They try to rebound it strong a lot like we do and they play zone like we do, so we know we’ve got to go hard to the boards. They’re very athletic, so it’s going to be a good matchup."

Edwards finished the regular season with a 10.2 scoring and an 8.1 rebound average, both big improvements from her first two seasons, and those numbers have gone up throughout this season.

"There’s no question she’s stepped up down the stretch when we needed her," Hall said. "In the past she probably waited for something to happen. Now there’s more expected of this team and we’re trying to make things happen, and she’s been right there with that.

"We needed more of a back-to-the-basket presence and more rebounds, and she’s done that. It’s huge when you can count on someone to get nearly a double-double every night."

Edwards had 11 points and 11 rebounds in that semifinal win over Arkansas State. But her roll to the basket and following three-point play was easily the biggest of those points.

Edwards took a pass from a penetrating Jeanenne Colbert and hit a short jumper while being fouled. She hit the free throw to wrap up the 62-59 victory. If the Cajuns don’t win that game, they’re not in the NCAA Tournament this week.

"I was on the block and I looked out at Jeanenne at half court," Edwards said. "I knew she was going to drive and look to dish it off. It happened so quick, my man collapsed on her and their guard was late coming over on me.

"I didn’t think about anything until I saw Jeanenne on the floor kicking and screaming. Then I thought, I’ve got to make this free throw."

"We wanted to put them in a position where her man had to go help on Jeanenne," Hall said. "All Sonora had to do was give her a target because Jeanenne was going to get her the ball. She was in the right place and she finished it hard because she got fouled pretty good from behind."

Edwards averaged over 10 minutes per game in a backup role two years ago when UL won its first Sun Belt Western Division title but didn’t receive any type of postseason invitation. She stepped into the starting lineup last season and averaged 8.7 points and 7.1 rebounds.

"I was happy when we won two years ago, but I had a lot more to do with it this year," Edwards said. "Last year I was nervous about messing up, but this year it was just go out and do what I can every game. It was more of a mental thing, that and all the conditioning we did before the season started. I think we’re in better condition than just about everybody we play."

Physical conditioning is one thing, but the NCAA Tournament requires mental toughness. No one on the UL squad has ever been in this position, a fact that Edwards knows too well.

"We’ll be nervous," she said, "because everybody wants to do well so badly. We don’t know what to expect, but after a couple of minutes we’ll be at ease and playing our game."

Need tickets?


Tickets for UL’s first-ever NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament appearance are on sale at the Cajundome box office. A limited number of tickets for the Saturday opening session at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, are available for $21 each, with student tickets $16. The session includes the UL-Marquette game and an 11 a.m. game between Oklahoma and Southeast Missouri State. Tickets are cash sale only, and information is available by calling 265-2357.