Jan 16, 2013 11:38 PM by UL Sports Information
Sylvana Okde scored 22 points and Keke Veal added 17, but it was not enough as Louisiana couldn't hold an 11-point second half lead,falling 75-64 to first place Western Kentucky on Wednesday night in E.A. Diddle Arena.
The Cajuns (7-11, 1-8 SBC) played the game without starting point guard Kia Wilridge, who suffered a shoulder injury in practice on Tuesday and did not make the trip to Kentucky. Freshman Kiki Veal started in her place. Louisiana played the game with just eight players in uniform with senior Brandi Schambough limited because of the flu.
"The only negative thing about tonight's game was the final score," first-year Cajun head coach Garry Brodhead said. "We were short-handed and tired from a rough travel day but we didn't let that bother us. We gave the first place team in the Sun Belt everything that they could handle and if we had played a little smarter down the stretch, we could have come away with the win.
"I am happy with the way we played defensively. That is a really good offensive team we played tonight and I thought we guarded them well and forced them away from what they wanted to do.
"We executed our offense well. Tonight shows what we are capable of doing when we oplay hard so hopefully, we can build on this for the last 10 games or so of the year and have it help us finish strong," Brodhead added.
After Okde gave the Cajuns their final lead, 55-54, on a three-pointer with 7:42 left, WKU ran off 11 straight points to open up a 65-55 lead with 5:14 left and take control of the game. The Hilltoppers would hold off a Cajun comeback by scoring their final eight points of the game from the foul line, going eight-for-11 over the last 2:46 of the game.
Okde was outstanding, going six-for-11 from three-point in registering her fourth 20-point game of the season. Veal went six-for-14 from the field with three three-pointers and five assists while Ashley Benjamin added 13 points for the Cajuns.
Alexis Govan led WKU with 25 points and 14 rebounds while Bianca McGee scored all 22 of her points in the second half.
Louisiana matched their season-high with 10 three-pointers, shooting 50-percent from behind the arc (10-20), but was out-rebounded by the Hilltoppers, 40-30, including 15-10 on the offensive glass. WKU used their rebounding to have a 19-7 lead in second chance points.
Just getting to the game proved to be problematic for the Cajuns, who were originally slated to leave Lafayette at 9:40 a.m. on Tuesday but didn't arrive in Bowling Green until seven hours before the game. After having their original flight cancelled due to weather conditions, the airlines could not find space for the 16-person traveling party until 5:00 p.m. that day.
The Cajuns returned to Earl K. Long Gym from the airport at 11:30 a.m. and, because they would not get the chance to practice in Bowling Green that day, Brodhead held the daily practice on campus.
The team returned to the Lafayette Airport only to find their 5:00 p.m. flight canceled. The team then drove to New Orleans to stay overnight before boarding a flight at 9:00 a.m. this morning. After landing in Nashville shortly after 11, the team made the 65-mile drive to Bowling Green, arriving with 14 minutes left in their morning pre-game practice.
The first half featured four ties and nine lead changes as both teams battled for every loose ball.
Louisiana opened up its largest lead of the half when Brandi Schambaugh knocked down a long three-pointer from the right side to put the Cajuns ahead, 18-13 with 10:14 left.
The Hilltoppers answered right back, running off the next seven points to take a 20-18 advantage at the 8:40 mark.
The lead continued to change hands. After Jasmin Mills made a 12-footer to put Louisiana ahead, 23-22 with 6:44 left in the half, WKU went on a 10-2 run to open up its largest lead of the half, 32-25 with 1:22 left.
A three-pointer by Okde with 37 seconds left sent the Cajuns to the locker room trailing 32-28.
Okde continued her hot-shooting in the second half, connecting on a pair of treys to lead Louisiana on a 8-0 run to open the stanza and give the Cajuns a 36-32 lead with 18:32 left.
Veal connected on a trey from deep in the left corner as the shot clock went off to put Louisiana ahead, 41-34 (16:43).
WKU answered with four straight points to pull to within 41-38 (15:27), but Louisiana countered with eight straight points. Benjamin started the spurt with five straight points on a basket and three free throws and Brown finished it with a three-pointer at the top of the key to put the Cajuns ahad, 49-38 at the 13:29 mark.
The Hilltoppers countered with 11 straight points to even the game at 50-50 with 9:04 left and then take a 54-52 lead on a running eight-foot floater by Bianca McGee at the 7:54 mark.
The Cajuns continue their Midwest road swing on Saturday, playing a 3:00 p.m. contest at Middle Tennessee before returning home to host FIU next Wednesday night (Jan. 23) at 7:00 p.m. in Earl K. Long Gym.