NEW ORELANS – It wasn't easy, but in the end the sixth seeded Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns women's basketball team persevered to come out on top with a 54-48 win over the UT Arlington Lady Mavericks in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Women's Basketball Championships, Thursday night at the Lakefront Arena, to punch their ticket to a semifinals matchup with the Texas State Bobcats.
The win improves the Cajuns record to 17-15 (10-8 SBC) as they advance to the semifinals of the SBC Championships for the fourth straight season, snapping a four-game losing streak to the Lady Mavs along the way. As for UTA, seeded third, their 2017-18 record wraps up at 18-12 (12-6 SBC).
Louisiana had 14 steals on the game and they were led by senior Troi Swain filled up the stat sheet with a team high 20 points and seven rebounds while adding three assists and one steal. Freshman Skyler Goodwin added 15 points and grabbed four steals and fellow freshman Ty'Reonne Doucet was big off the bench adding eight points, five rebounds and a career high four steals.
HOW IT HAPPENED (First Quarter): Louisiana snagged a steal on the Lady Mavs first possession and Goodwin hit three-pointer to get the Cajuns rolling into the game. Swain would then add a three-point basket of her own followed by Goodwin dropping a layup in to put the Cajuns up 8-4 in the first three minutes of the game.
In the first six minutes of the quarter Louisiana would snag three steals, highlighted by a steal from sophomore Jasmine Thomas that resulted in a Swain basket and the Cajuns would eventually end with the quarter with five steals.
The prettiest play of the period came when, on the Cajuns fifth steal, Doucet jumped a pass just over midcourt and started the fast break. She sent the bounce pass to Swain who, after drawing in the defense, sent it right back to Doucet who finished with the layup. A late rally from UTA cut into the Cajuns quarter high nine-point lead, and at the end of the quarter the Cajuns sat in front of the Lady Mavs, 16-11.
HOW IT HAPPENED (Second Quarter): UTA came out on a 6-1 run to cut into the Cajuns lead, tying things at 16-16 then 17-17. But both teams would hit a scoring drought as the defenses began to take control of what was becoming a physical game. The final basket for just about three minutes came with 7:17 left in the period when Thomas hit a layup to put the Cajuns up 19-17.
Both teams traded baskets to end the drought and a three-point basket from Swain and a layup from Doucet pushed the Cajuns up by six as the shared scoring drought came to an end, and the score sat at 25-19. But Louisiana suffered their own scoring drought through the final three minutes of the half. During which back-to-back baskets from UTA's Rebekah VanDijk cut into the Cajuns lead once again, but Louisiana still held on to the lead, with the score sitting at 25-23.
HOW IT HAPPENED (Third Quarter): Louisiana came out strong on defense, forcing the Lady Mavs to go 1-6 from the field over the first three minutes of the period. But the Cajuns couldn't use that stretch to pull ahead, as the Lady Mavs ended that stretch with a jumper shot, coupled with a free throw, to cut the Cajuns lead to one point (29-28).
Goodwin pushed things back to a three-point lead when she hit a layup and a free throw, but UTA kept the score within two points, and with four minutes left the score sat at 32-30. Swain then single handily pushed the Cajuns lead back up to six points with back-to-back baskets, the last one being sparked by a Doucet steal, and with two minutes left Louisiana sat ahead of the Lady Mavs, 36-30.
As the quarter came to an end, UTA again made a push and a 6-0 run from the Lady Mavs, tied things up with 19 second left. Thomas then got fouled on the final possession of the period and she hit her two free throws to put the Cajuns back up by two points and the score sat at 38-36 entering the final quarter.
HOW IT HAPPENED (Fourth Quarter): In the final period, the Cajuns had to dig in deep as they would struggle from the field through the final six minutes, not hitting a basket from the field during that stretch. UTA attempted to take advantage of the Cajuns struggles, and they tied the game (39-39) with a three-point basket with seven minutes left in the game, but the Cajuns final basket from the field, a layup from Swain, put the Cajuns back in front for good. From that point the Cajuns locked up their semifinals berth by making their free throws.
Over the final five and half minutes the Cajuns shot 13 for 16 from the free throw line, to make sure that the Lady Mavs stayed within arm's length, as UTA would twice get within two points before the free throw shooting pushed the Cajuns back up by four points. Two final free throws from Goodwin locked up the game with under one second remaining and the Cajuns came away with the 54-48 win.
NOTEWORTHY: Doucet's four steals is a career high; The Cajuns had a season high 14 steals in the game; Louisiana shot 79 percent from the line in the fourth quarter (70 percent overall); This is the fourth straight year that the Cajuns have made it to the semifinals of the SBC Championships; Louisiana outscored the Lady Mavs 23-9 off of turnovers and that margin of 14 is the biggest margin in points off of turnovers for the Cajuns since their win at Georgia State on Feb. 8, 2018 (29-8).
QUOTEWORTHY: (Head Coach Garry Brodhead) Opening Statement: "It's exciting to continue to survive these tough games. I thought we played really well. I thought our offense, even though we didn't score in the last nine minutes the last time we played UTA, improved today. We didn't score a field goal through the last six minutes. The improvement was there. We knocked down some free throws when we needed to. The most important thing for us is to make stops. Our defense got going because in the first and fourth quarters we were able to get some scores and kind of control the first and fourth quarters so I was proud of our kids. I thought we did a good job, defensively, and then taking care of the ball. I know we ended up with thirteen or fourteen turnovers but for us that's pretty good. I thought we did a good job taking care of it and taking some pretty good shots so I'm proud of the kids."
On being able to win the game without being able to shoot a field goal late in the game: "It shows some character. I always say for as long as I've been coaching, when you get in tournaments the tougher teams usually win. I think that's what we have in our team. Since we got to UL we've tried to create a tough team and I thought they showed it today. If you're tough and you can fight through a lot of the adversity… we take pride in it. I was so excited for the young players tonight and the seniors to show up and show the toughness that we're made of. I'm proud of them. It's a tough game. Basketball is a lot tougher than people think. That's what it is. Our toughness is able to get us over maybe not being as talented as the other team."
On team fatigue going into this game after multiple overtime games: "(We weren't really worried about fatigue.) We went out the next morning instead of waiting and practicing that afternoon. We went out the next morning and we practiced and I thought we did a pretty good job of doing some walk throughs. We started to get up and down in our transition game and I could tell that they were moving a little bit better as we did them. We only went for an hour and a half, but we incorporated some stretching. I'm an ex-track athlete so I really believe in trying to move the muscles and all that. We stretched them and we had a coaches' stretch with them after. I thought that was kind of big. Each grabbed a player and we really stretched good and after our strength coach and athletic trainers got them in ice baths. We actually did it two days in a row and they were more concerned than I was. It's all a mental game. You can fight though fatigue and all that, especially with the number of kids we're playing. I thought we'd been playing around ten. Maybe we didn't play as many tonight, but they'll play with a lot of effort. It's the end of the year. This is it. You're back's against the wall so you're able to fight through things. I really wasn't concerned about it. Now if we had another three overtimes that would be tough. I like the way it's set up for us where we get a day off tomorrow before we play again on Saturday. Hopefully we play on Sunday, but ask me again Sunday. That might be a situation."
UP NEXT FOR THE CAJUNS: The sixth seeded Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns now heads to the semifinals where they'll face off with the second seeded Texas State Bobcats, a team they split with in the regular season, on Saturday, Mar. 10 at 7:30 p.m.
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