LAFAYETTE – It’ll be a matchup of two of the Sun Belt Conference’s leading teams on Saturday, February 4 when the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Women’s Basketball team hosts the Troy Trojans at the Cajundome in a 2:00 p.m. contest.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (14-9, 8-3 SBC) enter the game in second place in the Sun Belt standings, only one game off the lead, seeking to draw even with the Trojans (14-8, 9-2 SBC) who currently hold sole possession of first place.
Saturday’s meeting with Troy marks Louisiana’s first rematch in Sun Belt Conference play in the 2022-23 season.
Louisiana enters the rematch riding the momentum of a season-best, five-game winning streak which started after the hard-fought, 85-78, overtime loss to the Trojans back on January 14 in Troy, Alabama. The hot streak has advanced the Ragin’ Cajuns from middle of the pack in the SBC standings back in mid-January to the present-day position of challenging for the top spot.
In recognition of National Heart Month the Louisiana Athletics Department encourages fans to wear red. Game sponsor Our Lady of Lourdes Health is providing fans with free mini basketballs and foam glow sticks. Admission to the game – and all home games throughout the entire season – is free of charge for all and open to the public.
The UL-Troy showdown will be streamed live on ESPN+ with Dan McDonald (pxp) and Eric Mouton (analyst) providing the commentary. Fans in the Acadiana region can listen to call of the game by Steve Peloquin on 103.3 FM The Goat and 1420 AM and worldwide on the Varsity Network. Live stats will be provided by CajunStats.com.
It’s a tale as old as time with Louisiana and Troy taking the court – the Ragin’ Cajuns goal to use their defense to dictate the flow of the game and Troy attempting to push the tempo with its high-scoring offense. UL leads the Sun Belt in scoring defense both overall (56.8) and in conference play (54.9) while Troy is setting the pace in scoring offense ranking second overall (83.0) and first in conference play (84.2).
Louisiana has shown the ability to beat Troy at its own game, claiming a high-scoring 92-83 win over the visiting Trojans last January at the Cajundome. Conversely, the Trojans have had success playing the Cajuns style most recently winning 67-64 at the Cajundome in February 2020.
Rebounding will be a critical factor with Troy averaging 50-plus boards per game. The Ragin’ Cajuns kept up a few weeks back with the Trojans holding a slight 47-40 edge at Trojan Arena. Louisiana is one week removed from its best stretch on the boards, averaging 44.5 rebounds on the Georgia Southern-App State trip.
Both teams wrestled for control the entire contest three weeks ago in Troy, working through nine tied scores and eight lead changes in regulation prior to the final outcome being determined in the extra period. Louisiana twice rallied from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter and had the ball last with an opportunity to win in regulation.
A strong finish in the fourth quarter or later has been the hallmark of Louisiana’s five-game winning streak: a game-ending 11-1 run vs. ODU, holding Arkansas State to a single field goal and two points in overtime, a 9-0 spurt to open up a one-possession game at Georgia Southern, holding App State without a field goal make for the final 7:00-plus in a 17-2 finishing run and shooting 61.5 percent which generated 29 points to put away ULM.
The strong finishes have been predicated by Louisiana’s defense which continues to be the main constant in the team's success in Sun Belt play. The Ragin' Cajuns have now held the opposition to 60 points or less in all but two of the 11 games played so far.
Equally impressive in continuing the streak has been the ability to work around leading scorer Lanay Wheaton missing three of the games (ASU, APP, ULM). Tamera Johnson delivered a season-high 22 points to lead the win at App State and she was included in the group of four players who scored double figures, led by Alicia Blanton’s 15 points, to once again overcame the absence of Wheaton in Thursday’s 66-58 win over ULM.
The Ragin' Cajuns have won four straight in the Cajundome and are unbeaten at home since the turn of the calendar year. For the season, Louisiana is 9-2 on its home court which includes a 5-1 mark in SBC games.
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 and taken over the team lead now averaging 11.7 points per game. Johnson, the previous leading scorer, follows closely at 11.6 points per game, has scored double figures 15 times and recorded five double-doubles.
In SBC play, Wheaton (14.4) and Johnson (13.0) have been the primary scorers. Destiny Rice has increased her SBC-play average to 8.6 points, boosted by a career-high 21 points at Texas State and followed up by an average of 10 points per game in the South Alabama-Troy set (January 12-14), and leads the team with 31 assists (of her season 45) in conference play.
It’s a second consecutive top-two showdown on the road for Troy which outlasted Texas State 84-78 on Thursday in San Marcos, Texas, rallying from nine points down in the fourth quarter to claim the win. The Trojans enter the weekend ranked among the nation's leaders in rebounds (51.5), offensive rebounds (21.5), scoring (83.0) and steals (11.9) – Troy ranks in the top 10 in all four categories.
The Trojans are one of the most balanced teams in the country with four players averaging double figures, with the leading scorer and fifth-leading scorer separated by just 5.4 points. Leading the charge in SBC play has been Makayia Hallmon (15.6), Nia Daniel (13.6), Ja'Mia Hollings (13.4) and Tai'Sheka Porchia (12.2).
LOUISIANA (14-9, 8-3 SBC) vs. TROY (14-8, 9-2 SBC)
Date / Time: Saturday, February 3, 2023 / 2:00 p.m. (CST)
Site: Lafayette, La.
Arena: Cajundome (12,362)
RADIO/TVRadio: The GOAT 103.3 FM / 1420 AM
Talent: Steve Peloquin (PxP)
TV: ESPN+ [espn.com]
Talent: Dan McDonald (PxP); Eric Mouton (Analyst)
LIVE STATS/SOCIAL MEDIALive Stats: CajunStats.com [statb.us]Twitter Updates: @RaginCajunsWBB [twitter.com] | #GeauxCajuns
SERIES HISTORYOverall: Troy leads, 17-12
In Lafayette: Louisiana leads, 9-4
Streak: Troy +1
Last Meeting: Troy 85-78 (OT), 1/14/23 (Troy, Ala.)
Last Time in Lafayette: UL 92-83, 1/13/22 (Lafayette, La.)
Noteworthy: Meeting for the 30th time overall and 14th time in Lafayette … all meetings have occurred since Troy joined the Sun Belt Conference in the 2005-06 season … Trojans hold a 14-11 advantage in SBC regular season games, taking claim of the lead by winning five of the last seven matchups since the 2018-19 season … the Ragin’ Cajuns do own a 9-4 advantage over Troy in their hometown (games played at either E.K. Long Gym or the Cajundome) … it’s been a virtual split at the Cajundome the past decade, with Louisiana holding a 4-3 edge in the Garry Brodhead era … Louisiana scored its series-high of 92 points in the last meeting held at the Cajundome (W, 92-83) back in January 2022 … the Ragin’ Cajuns defense has held the high-scoring Trojans offense to less than 80 points in regulation in all but two of the last 10 meetings … Louisiana’s last win over Troy when scoring less than 70 points occurred back on January 23, 2016 (W, 56-53); Cajuns scored 79 or more in each of the last three wins over the Trojans … programs have met four times in the Sun Belt Tournament including a matchup in the championship game in 2017.
FIVE-PLUS THINGS TO KNOW
- Must-See Basketball: Saturday inside the Cajundome there will be two Sun Belt Conference top-two showdowns. It starts on the women’s side with Louisiana and Troy and follows in the evening with the men’s matchup between league-leader Louisiana and second-place Marshall.
- The Winning Formula: Winners of seven of their last eight games, the Ragin' Cajuns have continued to benefit from the January-established recipe of consistently shooting at or near 40 percent and scoring 60-plus combined with heir patented defense which has held the opposition to 60 points or less in all but one of the games during the hot streak.
- Developing Trend: Louisiana has experienced a complete reversal in fortune on offense throughout the course of Sun Belt Conference play, connecting on 40.7 percent of its shots overall (247-of-607) and 32.3 percent (53-of-164) from beyond the arc. The most marked improvement has been from the three-point line, lifting the mark above 30 percent after converting just 24.6 percent in non-conference play.
- Setting the Bar: By holding the opposition to less than 60 points in nine of 11 Sun Belt games, the Ragin’ Cajuns sit atop the conference in scoring defense in league play allowing just 54.9 points per game (slightly ahead of USM’s 56.2 ppg allowed).
- It’s the Small Details: A subtle layer to the Ragin’ Cajuns stout defensive system is the ability to draw a charge to force a turnover from the opposition. Twice in last Thursday’s win at Georgia Southern it was a charge drawn by Tamera Johnson that wiped out a potential three-point play for the Eagles.
- It's an Art: Louisiana ranks Top 25 nationally, and second within the Sun Belt Conference, in turnovers forced per game (20.6). Fourteen (14) times – and in 10 of the last 15 games – the Ragin' Cajuns have forced the opposition into 20-plus turnovers.
- Sun Belt Success Story: Dating back to the 2020-21 season in which Louisiana won the regular season championship, the program has won 30 of its last 38 Sun Belt Conference games.
UP NEXT FOR LOUISIANA
Louisiana faces its 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 upcoming road-laden slate starts next week with stops on Thursday, February 9 in Harrisonburg, Virginia (at James Madison) and Saturday, February 11 in Mobile, Alabama (at South Alabama).
The back half of the four-game road swing occurs Thursday-Saturday, February 16-18 with visits to ULM and Arkansas State, respectively.
FOLLOW THE RAGIN' CAJUNS
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