Mar 9, 2013 7:36 PM by UL Sports Information
HOT SPRINGS, ARK. - Keke Veal scored a game-high 21 points with eight rebounds and five assists, but a second half shooting slump hurt Louisiana as the No. 11 Cajuns were eliminated from the Sun Belt Conference championship with a 61-57 loss to No. 3 WKU in a quarterfinal game on Saturday afternoon on the Convention Center Court.
The loss ends the Cajuns season with a 10-21 record while WKU improves to 21-9.
"Everybody talks about demanding respect. I think we earned a little this week," Louisiana head coach Garry Brodhead said.
"We just came to play this week. Our shoot-around this morning was at 7:00 a.m. but our kids were out there ready to go, ready to play. That's all we've wanted to do this year is play and get better. We got better today.
"WKU is a good team but I think we guarded them pretty well and took away a couple of things that they wanted to do. Still, they got the lead and made their free throws down the stretch and didn't give us any good chances to get the lead back.
"This has been a long year, but a good one. We knew when we started the preseason with five freshmen and just 10 players that it was going to be a roller coaster ride this season. We made it through the year and this team got better," Brodhead added.
Veal capped her freshman campaign with another brilliant effort, recording her fourth 20-point game of the year, all coming in the last seven games of the season. She was seven-for-24 from the field with three three-pointers.
"Keke is a winner. A player. We knew that when we recruited her," Brodhead said. "It took her a little while this year to learn our system and how we wanted her to play, but you could see her grow as a player as she did. She has been one of the best players in the league the last month."
Bianca McGee led WKU with 20 points, including an eight-for-eight shooting effort from the foul line, all of which came in the final 80 seconds of the game. Alexis Govan added 15 points while Chastity Gooch chipped in with 11 points and eight rebounds.
The fatigue of playing a double-overtime game on Friday and coming back to play a fresh WKU squad showed.
Louisiana opened the game by making five of its first eight three-point attempts and was eight-for-16 from the field at one point. The Cajuns could only make two of their final 20 three-point attempts and was just 11-for-47 from the field after the quick start.
For the game, Louisiana shot .302 from the field (19-63) and .250 from three-point (7-28) while the Hilltoppers shot .489 from the field (22-45).
Despite the lopsided shooting totals, the game was still decided in the final minutes.
After WKU rallied from a 12-point deficit in the first half to take the lead for good, 36-35 on a Micah Jones layup with 13:41 left. The Hilltoppers would lead by as many as seven (48-41, 5:11).
With Louisiana trailing 51-46 with 2:50 left after a Gooch layup, Brandi Schambough knocked down a long three-pointer from the left side and Kia Wilridge stole the ball as WKU worked the ball near the mid-court line, coasting in for an easy layup with 2:23 left that tied the game at 51-51.
McGee took over, scoring down low at the 1:56 mark to put WKU ahead, 53-51. A missed three-pointer by Veal as the shot clock wound down with 1:20 left was cleared by the Hilltoppers, and McGee was fouled for the first of four times down the stretch, converting all eight free throws to deny the Cajuns a come back opportunity.
"That's the sign of a good team. They just wouldn't give us a chance," Brodhead said.
The first half belonged to the Cajuns as Sylvana Okde scored the first five points of the game. Louisiana did not trail in the first 20 minutes.
After WKU scored inside to make it 5-2, Wilridge scored consecutive baskets to make it a 9-2 UL lead at the 15:53 mark.
The lead would gradually grow.
It was eight points when Veal knocked down her first trey of the game to make it 12-4 (14:54).'
Veal and Okde would hit back-to-back threes to push the lead to 20-9 (11:47) and Veal's third trey of the half would give the Cajuns their largest lead, 23-11 with 10:55 left.
WKU would charge back, scoring five straight points, including a Micah Jones trey, to close to within 23-16 with 9:04 left.
The Hilltoppers would get as close as four on a basket inside by Chastity Gooch at the 2:02 mark. The two teams would exchange points to make it a 30-26 Louisiana lead at the half.
In other tournament action, No. 5 FIU knocked off No. 4 Arkansas State, 57-50, Top-seeded Middle Tennessee escaped with a 59-56 win over No. 11 ULM and No. 2 UALR toppled No. 10 Troy, 65-52.