Cajuns Advance With 66-52 Win Over Troy

NEW ORLEANS, La. – The third time was definitely the charm for the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns on Wednesday night as the No. 6 Cajuns put four players in double figures and pulled the only upset of the first day of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, knocking off No. 3 Troy, 66-52, at Lakefront Arena.

Louisiana (19-11) had dropped each of the two meetings against Troy (20-10) in the regular season, but led for the final 12:49 of the game to pick up its second win in the SBC Tournament during head coach Garry Brodhead's tenure.

"We've been talking all week about what we can do as a team, not what we can't do," Louisiana head coach Garry Brodhead said following the game. "During the season it's always about what we can't do and what we shouldn't do. Coming into this game, we really focused on what we can do. I was very impressed at how we stuck to our game plan. We slowed the tempo down on the offensive side so we didn't have to guard as much, because they've been scoring 80 points a game. I thought we did a great job of running the shot clock under fifteen and getting some shots off, and making some big shots along the way."

The Trojans entered the night as the league's highest-scoring offense, ranking 13th in the nation with 77.3 points per game, but was held to a season-low 52 points, eclipsing their previous season low of 54 set in a season-opening loss at Auburn.

"We have some kids that can guard. We spend 75 percent of our practices working on defense," Brodhead said. "We know where we want the ball to go and where we want to force it. We do a good job with it, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of effort to be able to do things like that.

The win pushes the Cajuns into the SBC Tournament semifinals where they will face No. 2 Arkansas State on Friday at 2:00 p.m. in a game to be aired on ESPN3.

Keke Veal led four Cajuns in double figures with 20 points, hitting 7-for-10 from the field to go with seven rebounds, four steals and four assists.

Freshman Simone Fields picked up the first double-double by a Cajun all season with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Jaylyn Gordon canned the only two UL threes of the night and finished with 13 points. Kia Wilridge also added 10 points and three assists, including 7-for-8 from the foul line.

"I thought Simone [Fields] was able to get some touches and create some offense really for everybody. She rebounded strongly," Brodhead said. "Gabby [Alexander] is such an athletic kid, she's a kid that can dunk a basketball. I don't see that that much even at the college level. At 5-11 she's super athletic. It's still a work in progress. She's getting better and her mindset is getting tougher. She was big tonight on a lot of those rebounds."

Ashley Beverly-Kelly led the Trojans with 17 points, but was the only Troy player in double figures. In all, the Cajuns' defense held the Trojans to just 34.8 shooting for the game, including just 30.8 percent in the second half and forced 19 turnovers on the night. Additionally, UL owned the glass, finishing with a 43-36 edge and a 16-8 advantage in second-chance points on 12 offensive rebounds.

Troy's Kourtney Coleman connected on a three with 13:23 to play to give the Trojans a 41-40 lead, but Veal answered with a layup to spark an 8-0 Cajun run and up the lead to seven in a game that had already seen nine lead changes and neither team lead by more than five to that point.

The Trojans got to within 51-47 on another Coleman triple with 5:01 to go, but the margin never got any closer. Louisiana answered with scores from Wilridge, Fields and Alexander and made nine of 11 shots from the foul stripe in the final minute to close it out.

The Cajuns forced 13 turnovers in the first half and took a 28-26 lead into the break behind nine points from Veal. The Trojans opened up an early 10-5 lead on two straight scores from Beverly-Kelley, but the Cajuns outscored them 15-7 over the next six minutes, getting a pair of threes from Gordon during the run.

The first UL lead of the game came at 13-12 on a bank shot from Wilridge at the 11:31 mark as part of a 7-2 Cajun spurt. Troy answered with a run of their own, eventually re-taking the lead at 24-22 on consecutive baskets once again from Beverly-Kelly; however, the Cajuns scored the next six points and led by as much as four with a minute to play before a Trojan bucket on their final possession.

The Cajuns will now turn their attention to second-seeded Arkansas State on Friday. UL split the season series with the Red Wolves, winning 69-57 in Lafayette on Jan. 22 before falling 87-65 in the season-finale on March 7 in Jonesboro.

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