Strong Defense Turns the Tide

LAFAYETTE – The Ragin' Cajuns women's basketball team held UALR scoreless for the first 13:06 of the second half to take control of the contest, then finished off the upset victory over the Sun Belt West favorites in the second overtime by a count of 56-54 here Saturday evening at the Cajundome.

The Cajuns stifling defensive effort staked the squad to a 40-27 lead 11 minutes in to the second half. UALR wouldn't make a field goal until 5:26 remained, but managed to make a late push to force overtime.

The Trojans (10-2, 3-1 Sun Belt) needed a free throw make with 27 seconds left in the initial overtime to extend the contest another five minutes.

Louisiana (7-6, 1-3 Sun Belt) trailed 54-53 with 44 seconds left in the second overtime after UALR's Jakeisha Wells scored a basket.

Needing a score to ensure the landmark triumph wouldn't escape them, the Cajuns worked the ball to the Tulane hero – Brandi Schambough. And, the senior sharpshooter delivered once again.

Schambough buried a triple with 27 seconds showing for a 56-54 lead. In the waning seconds she grabbed the rebound off a missed jumper by Taylor Gault and dribbled the length of the floor to allow the clock to expire making the squad victorious in the first Cajundome game of the Garry Brodhead era.

The Ragin' Cajuns were able to turn the tables on the heavily favored Trojans by holding the defending Sun Belt champions to 13.8 percent (4-of-29) in the second stanza after a 56.5 percent showing in the first half.

"We showed up when it counted tonight," head coach Garry Brodhead said. "We are a fairly young team so it's hard for them to stay focused, but we play hard and we are fun to watch.

"I thought on the defensive side we did a good job for the most part," Brodhead added. "They made a couple runs, but at the end of the game we did what we were supposed to do."

Louisiana's victory brought an end to UALR's nine-game winning streak and marked the visitor's first defeat since Nov. 15 at Missouri State.

The Ragin' Cajuns also snapped the Trojans' 10-game win streak in the series and picked up their first win over UALR since a 65-61 decision on Dec. 28, 2006 at Earl K. Long Gym. UL improved to 7-5 all-time in Lafayette vs. UALR.

Louisiana seeks to build on the momentum of the first Sun Belt win of the Brodhead era when they make the Florida road trip next week. The Cajuns travel to meet Florida Atlantic on Wednesday, Jan. 2 at 6 p.m. (CST) and FIU on Saturday, Jan. 5 at 4:30 p.m. (CST).

Ashley Benjamin powered the Cajuns triumph with her first career double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in a team-best 47 minutes.

Schambough finished with 10 points, as did Robbie Brown to give UL three players in double digits.

The Trojans were paced by 15 points from Gault. She was the only UALR player to score double digits.

The Cajuns defense limited UALR to 31.7 percent shooting (20-of-63) for the game and with the win remain undefeated under Brodhead when holding opponents below 40 percent (6-0).

The game's opening minutes indicated a defensive battle would rule the day. Only 13 points were scored through the first 10 minutes, UALR holding a 7-6 lead.

Sylvana Okde scored a trey at 9:46 for a 9-7 Louisiana lead. The Trojans scored 12 of the next 15 points capped off by a Shanity Jones layup that provided a 19-12 advantage.

UL wouldn't let the Trojans pull away, forcing three turnovers and two missed shots over the next three minutes to cut the deficit to 21-18.

A buzzer-beating basket from Morgan Bolton upped the Trojans edge to 27-23 at the break. That would be the final make for the visitors until the second half clock dipped below six minutes.

While holding the Trojans scoreless until a Bolton free throw make at 6:54, Louisiana staged a 17-0 run to take a 40-27 lead.

Jasmin Mills broke a 27-all tie with a layup at 15:48, then starting with a Benjamin basket at 10:23 UL produced points on three straight possessions to take its largest lead. A three-point play by Brown finished off the run at 8:59.

The Trojans showed the marks of a veteran ball club by methodically working their way into a 41-all tie following a Gault jumper with 1:20 remaining in regulation.

Keke Veal answered for UL at the 1:02 mark, but Gault came through again for UALR knocking down a jumper with 47 seconds showing to forge overtime.

A key stop in the first overtime, coming when Hannah Fohne was forced to turn the ball over, helped the Cajuns erase a deficit. Mills collected a steal and Veal scored a layup for a 47-46 Cajuns advantage.

Fohne drew a foul and hit a free throw with 27 seconds showing to even the score once more. A missed jumper by Veal sent the contest into a second overtime.

UALR grabbed the lead once more in an extra session, taking a three-point advantage (52-49) at the 2:08 mark on a Gault layup.

Benjamin provided a much needed basket for the Cajuns, scoring at 1:37 to trim the deficit to 52-51. The defense forced Fohne to turn the ball over once more and a Mills putback basket at 1:01 gave UL a 53-52 lead.

The Trojans went back in front 54-53 off Wells' basket. On the ensuing possession, Schambough made sure her teammates wouldn't be denied the hard-fought victory.
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