Jan 19, 2013 7:34 PM by UL Sports Information
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Playing short-handed for a second straight game, the Ragin' Cajuns women's basketball team fell behind by 18 points just 10 minutes into the game and could not rebound, falling 72-36 to Middle Tennessee here Saturday afternoon in the historic Murphy Center.
The loss drops Louisiana to 7-12 overall and 1-9 in Sun Belt play. Middle Tennessee remains in first place in the east division, owning a 13-5 overall and 8-1 league record.
The Cajuns played the game without starting point guard Kia Wilridge, who missed her second straight contest after suffering a shoulder injury in practice earlier this week. Starting forward Ashley Benjamin also missed the game, sitting out for disciplinary reasons. The losses left Louisiana with just seven healthy players.
Robbie Brown led UL in scoring with nine points. Keke Veal added seven points, eight rebounds and five assists. Adrienne Prejean came off the bench to lead UL with nine rebounds.
Icelyn Elie led MT with 20 points and nine rebounds while Lauren March and Kortni Jones added 13 points each. Ebony Rowe, the Sun Belt's second leading scorer, chipped in with 10 points and eight rebounds.
The win allowed the Blue Raiders to sweep the season series from the Cajuns (won 72-45 at Earl K. Long Gym on Nov. 24) and remain perfect in the all-time series between the two schools (19-0).
"Middle Tennessee is the best all-around team in the Sun Belt right now, and we just didn't have enough to keep pace," head coach Garry Brodhead said. "With Ashley (Benjamin) and Kia (Wilridge) out of the lineup, we were missing our two best defensive players and it showed in the first half. They came at us and forced us to stop them and we couldn't maintain our defensive intensity like we usually do.
"The attrition on this team is starting to show," Brodhead explained. "We've already backed away from pressing full court like we want to because we don't have enough players to make it work. It's tough to ask our kids to play 35 minutes or so a game and still maintain the intensity that we want. I am proud of how we stuck in there and played hard in the second half."
Middle Tennessee raced out to a 10-2 lead by the 15:54 mark before the Cajuns rallied, scoring five of the next seven points to make it a 12-7 contest following a three-pointer by Brandi Schambough with 14:23 left.
The Blue Raiders then ran off 13 unanswered points and 22 of the next 25 to take control, leading 34-10 with 4:08 left in the opening half.
The deficit continued to grow for the Ragin' Cajuns as Middle Tennessee led 46-13 at halftime.
The Cajuns struggled against the Blue Raider full-court press, turning the ball over 11 times in the first 10 minutes with Middle Tennessee scoring 18 points off those miscues during that time frame.
The offensive struggles continued at the start of the second half as Middle Tennessee scored the first 12 points of the second half to take a 58-13 lead (16:19) - the largest margin of the contest.
The Cajuns would play stronger offensively the rest of the way, outscoring the Blue Raiders, 23-14.
After the initial turnover problems in the first 10 minutes, Louisiana regrouped and made just five more turnovers the rest of the way to finish with 16 for the game. Middle Tennessee had 11 turnovers to match the lowest total by a Ragin' Cajuns opponent this season, and finished the night with a 26-1 lead in points off turnovers.
The Blue Raiders held a 50-34 rebounding edge, including 14-9 off the offensive glass.
"They have some real big bodies inside and they are athletic," Brodhead remarked. "That helped tremendously them on the boards."
The Cajuns matched a season-low by going 14-for-55 from the floor (.255), including just 4-for-21 from three-point (.190) and 4-for-10 from the line (.400).
Middle Tennessee shot 49 percent (18-37) to open the big first half lead, but cooled after the break to finish the night making 28-of-63 shots (.444). The Blue Raiders managed just a 4-for-16 effort from three-point (.250) and 12-for-18 from the line .667).
The Ragin' Cajuns return home this week to host FIU on Wednesday, Jan. 23 beginning at 7:00 p.m. in Earl K. Long Gym. It begins a stretch that will see Louisiana play six of the next eight games in Lafayette.
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