Mar 12, 2014 11:46 PM by UL Sports Information
NEW ORLEANS - Chastity Gooch scored 15 of her team-high 21 points in the second half, including a go-ahead three-point play with 1:24 remaining, and No. 2-seeded WKU earned a hard fought 67-61 victory over the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Women's Basketball Championship on Wednesday at Lakefront Arena.
Chanell Lockhart came off the bench to score 10 points as WKU (22-8) advanced to face the winner of the UALR-Troy game on Friday at 2:30 p.m. Louisiana, which earned the No. 7 seed, ended its season at 14-16.
"I was impressed with how our team played ... the Cajun way," head coach Garry Brodhead said. "We defended as best we could. They (WKU) outrebounded us, and they're a really good WKU team. I was excited for our kids to have this opportunity to bring them to the (Sun Belt Conference) tournament and have a chance to win late. I thought our kids played hard. We fell short, but we have everybody coming back, so we're excited about what we're trying to do."
Louisiana rode the steady hand of Okde, who scored 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the floor with seven 3-pointers. The sophomore scored the Cajuns' first nine points of the game from behind the 3-point line before adding a pair long-range jumpers that gave Louisiana a 33-23 lead with 2:37 remaining in the first half.
"I was just trying to get back at it," Okde said. "We felt, as a team, that we were ready to take it from them (WKU). We changed things up a little, I was playing near the top (of the offense) and they stuck me in the corner, so I knew it was time for me to shoot and I had to make shots. Without Kia (Wilridge) and Jaylyn (Gordon) and everyone able to pass the ball, it wouldn't have worked. It was a team effort tonight."
WKU responded with three 3-pointers to close out the half as Lockhart, Chaney Means and Ileana Johnson each scored to cut the Louisiana lead to 33-32 at halftime.
The Ragin' Cajuns led 41-36 when Brooklyn Arceneaux scored on a layup with 15:47 remaining before the Hilltoppers used an 8-2 run to take their first lead of the game. Bria Gaines scored on a pair of buckets in the lane for WKU before Gooch added two free throws and Lockhart hit a jumper that gave the Hilltoppers a 44-43 lead with 11:31 remaining.
But the lead would be short-lived as Jaylyn Gordon sank a 3-pointer from the right wing for a 46-44 lead and the Ragin' Cajuns would push their lead to 56-51 when Kia Wilridge scored on a driving layup with 7:30 remaining.
WKU scored the next five points to tie the game at 56-56 and took the lead twice before Louisiana's Adrienne Prejean knotted the game each time with a pair of jumpers - the latest coming with 1:49 remaining for a 60-60 contest.
But Gooch, who went 6-for-9 from the floor in the second half and 9-for-18 for the game, put the Hilltoppers up for good when she scored off the left block and was fouled with 1:24 remaining. Gooch, who grabbed 14 rebounds in the contest, converted the three-point play for a 63-60 lead.
The Ragin' Cajuns cut the lead to 63-61 with 1:16 remaining when Arceneaux hit one of two free throws, but the Cajuns missed their last three shots from the floor while WKU sank four free throws down the stretch to advance.
Wilridge scored 12 points and dished out four assists for Louisiana, which finished 23-for-51 (45.1 percent) from the floor and equaled its season-high with 10 3-pointers. Arceneaux added nine points and five rebounds for the Ragin' Cajuns while Gordon added eight points and five assists.
"We've got a good core (of returning players)," Brodhead said. "If we can stay healthy, that's going to be an important thing. In our locker room, we've got everyone, from the coaches to the players, believing in what we are doing. I truly believe that we're moving in the right direction. We're going to work hard, we're going to get the right kids in and we're going to continue to work hard to get a championship identity for women's basketball in Lafayette."