HARRISONBURG, Va. – The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Women’s Basketball team seeks to maintain its second-place standing in the Sun Belt Conference on Thursday, February 9 when the squad meets James Madison at 6:00 p.m. (CST) at the Atlantic Union Bank Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

The Ragin’ Cajuns opposition has a similar goal, as well.

Both Louisiana (14-10, 8-4 SBC) and JMU (18-6, 8-4) reside in a five-way tie for second place in the SBC ledger. One team will exit Thursday with the upper-hand over the other, and will maintain a close watch on the league’s top spot.

Thursday’s game will serve as JMU’s Pink Game in support of Breast Cancer Awareness. The Ragin’ Cajuns’ game uniform will be trimmed in pink.

The UL-JMU contest will be streamed live on ESPN+ with Curt Dudley (pxp) and David Taylor (analyst) providing the commentary alongside sideline reporter Cece Evans. Fans in the Acadiana region can listen to call of the game by Ian Auzenne on 103.3 FM The Goat and 1420 AM and worldwide on the Varsity Network. Live stats will be provided by CajunStats.com.

The stop in Harrisonburg kicks off Louisiana’s longest stretch of road games in Sun Belt Conference play, competing in a series of four consecutive road games that runs through Saturday, February 18. The Ragin’ Cajuns won’t return to the Cajundome until Wednesday, February 22.

The Ragin’ Cajuns travels take them to Mobile, Alabama (at South Alabama) on Saturday, February 11 followed by visits to ULM and Arkansas State from Thursday-Saturday, February 16-18.

Despite last Saturday’s 81-80 last-second overtime loss to Troy at the Cajundome, the Ragin’ Cajuns have won seven of their last nine games dating back to January 7 – the lone defeats coming to Troy in overtime both times.

The last time Louisiana was out on the road the squad was able to come away with a sweep of Georgia Southern and App State, holding both teams below 60 points. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 3-2 away from home in SBC play, the two defeats by the narrowest of margins: one-point defeat at Southern Miss and an overtime bout at Troy.

Louisiana hopes to regain the services of second-leading scorer Lanay Wheaton (11.7) who missed the previous three games with injury. Despite her absence, the team extended its season-best, win streak out to five games, scoring 60-plus both times, prior to the narrow overtime defeat against Troy.

Tamera Johnson has been leading the charge in Wheaton’s absence scoring her season-high in points twice with 22 points at App State and 23 points vs. Troy. Johnson has averaged 16-plus points and eight-plus rebounds the past two weeks, and is coming off an 18-point, 8-rebound per game effort during last week’s ULM-Troy homestand.

Off the bench, the Ragin’ Cajuns are beginning to get key contributions from Alicia Blanton and Jaylyn James. Blanton, who has started in place of Wheaton recently, scored a game-high 15 points against ULM including 10 points in the first half to keep UL in position to grab the win, while James fired off three triples as part of her 12-point, six-rebound effort vs. Troy.

Louisiana looks to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since the early stages of SBC play (CCU, USM). The Ragin’ Cajuns rebounded well the previous two times coming off a defeat, dominating Texas State 71-51 on the road and downing ODU 61-51 at home.

With only six games remaining in the regular season, Thursday’s contest with JMU signals the fierce battle for Top 4 seeding in the SBC Tournament which guarantees a double-bye all the way to the quarterfinals on Friday, March 3. In addition to the five-way tie for second place, which UL and JMU are involved in, there are two teams (Georgia Southern, Marshall) that sit only one game back of the group.

Johnson’s surge in production has allowed her to reclaim the team lead now averaging 12.1 points per game. The Lafayette native has scored double figures 16 times and recorded five double-doubles. Boosted by four 20-point games since mid-December, and having scored at least 18 points each of her last four outings, Wheaton has increased her season scoring average nearly five full points up to 11.7 points per game.

In SBC play, Wheaton (14.4) and Johnson (13.8) have been Louisiana’s primary scorers. Destiny Rice steadies the offense and has delivered 33 of her season total of 47 assists in conference play. Rice has also increased her scoring in SBC play, up to 9.1 points per game, and is the team’s leading free throw shooter (40-of-49, 81.6%).

JMU has lost four of its last six outings after beginning Sun Belt play with a 6-0 mark. The Dukes are coming off a 72-61 road loss at Georgia Southern, a result that gave the Eagles a sweep of the season series. Kiki Jefferson, a nominee for the 2023 Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Award, averages 18.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, good for second and third in the league, respectively.