MOBILE, Ala. – A second half surge by South Alabama proved to be too much as the Ragin' Cajuns women's basketball team dropped a 53-39 decision to the Jaguars here Wednesday night at the Mitchell Center.
After a closely contested first half, the Jaguars (14-11, 7-9 Sun Belt ) went on to shoot 9-for-18 (50 percent) in the second half seeing their lead swell to double digits as large as 16 points twice, while Louisiana (7-17, 1-14 Sun Belt) was held to 24 percent shooting (6-for-25) in the half.
"I thought we played the first half fairly well," head coach Garry Brodhead said. "We did a good job of moving the ball and keeping them off of the boards. We came out real flat in the second half and didn't defend like I feel we are capable of. I thought that we could have done a better job, but that's part of being young."
Keke Veal led the squad with 11 points on the night, while both Sylvana Okde (9) and Kia Wilridge (8) fell just short of double digits. Okde knocked down three three-point field goals to increase her season total to 63.
Six different USA players made a three-pointer in the game led by Mary Nixon who had 12 points and was 2-for-4 from beyond the arc.
Okde got the Cajuns offense going with a three-point basket just 21 seconds into game. Louisiana would jump out to a 5-0 lead after a jumper by Veal.
The Cajuns held South Alabama scoreless for the first 3:45 of the contest as USA was 0-for-7 from the field during that span.
South Alabama grabbed its first lead at the 12:52 mark after a pair of free throws by Mansa El. The Jaguars extended their advantage to five points, 20-15, with 7:33 left in the half.
After the Cajuns tied the contest at 21-all, USA ran off eight straight points in the final 3:17 to take a 29-21 advantage into the half.
Louisiana outshot the Jaguars from the field in the opening stanza going 8-for-21 (38.1 percent), while USA went 9-for-27 (33.3 percent)
The Jaguars used an 8-0 run out of the break to take their biggest lead of the contest, 37-21, at the 16:55 mark.
The Cajuns answered with an 11-1 run of their own to pull within six points at 38-32. Ashley Benjamin had four of the 10 points during the span.
USA knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to extend the lead to 12 points at the 11:57 mark. The Jaguars' lead would not drop below double digits for the remainder of the contest.
"I was proud of Brandi (Schambough) and couple of the kids who came off the bench and continued to play hard," Brodhead added. "We started pressing and that helped us get back into the game, but we eventually ran out of gas."
The Ragin' Cajuns return home on Saturday at 5 p.m. in the first part of a doubleheader at the Cajundome against Florida Atlantic.
BANK SHOTS: The Cajuns and Red Wolves met at the Mitchell Center for the 12th time, with USA upping its advantage in the facility to 10-2…Keke Veal produced her eighth double digit scoring performance in the last 10 outings…Veal leads the team in double figure scoring contests with 14… The Cajuns held an opponent below 60 points for ninth time this season…The Cajuns saw its opponent post a season low three steals in the contest.