LAFAYETTE – The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Women’s Basketball team’s shooting was on point in crunch time on Thursday, February 2 lifting the team to a 66-58 win over ULM at the Cajundome.
Louisiana (14-9, 8-3 SBC) landed its fifth consecutive victory, now the team’s season-best winning streak, by shooting 61.5 percent (8-of-13) from the field and 80 percent (12-of-15) at the free throw line in the fourth quarter to generate 29 points that chased off the Warhawks (7-15, 3-8 SBC) who led at halftime and were up one heading into the final frame.
The Ragin’ Cajuns needed just over a minute into the fourth to attain a firm grip on the lead. Destiny Rice faked out ULM defenders in the lane for the go-ahead basket at the 9:39 mark, then after a steal it was Alicia Blanton completing a three-point play eight seconds later to push the lead to 42-38.
After a ULM miss, it was Nubia Benedith burying a triple at 8:35 for Louisiana’s third consecutive make to start the fourth quarter. Benedith’s timely trey stretched the lead to 45-38 and the Warhawks were in full back-pedaling mode.
Sherry Porter assured UL that ULM would be at arm’s length the rest of the way as she provided six points over the next five minutes to answer back at the Warhawks’ advances. Porter spun into the lane and gave the Cajuns ample insurance with a basket off glass with 3:53 remaining to open a 53-44 edge.
Tamera Johnson, who took over with nine points in the final stanza, landed the knockout punch when she beat her defender down the baseline for a reverse layup and a foul to register a three-point play that increased the advantage to 56-46.
On the ensuing Ragin’ Cajuns possession, it was Benedith sinking all three free throws on a shooting foul to return the lead to double figures at 59-47 with 1:56 on the clock. Louisiana withstood a late push from the Warhawks and clinched the victory at the free throw line.
It was a group effort in putting the Warhawks away in the final 10 minutes, made possible by Blanton who poured in 10 of her game-high 15 points in the first half to keep the visitors from gaining any type of substantial edge.
Blanton provided a quick four points during Louisiana’s 6-0 start to the game that came by the 8:30 mark, then scored a pair of free throws with 11 seconds showing to assure a 10-all tie at the first quarter break.
The first four points of the second quarter belonged to Blanton and she was pacing the Ragin’ Cajuns with 10 points in a 16-all tie at the second quarter media timeout. ULM got a four-point spurt in the final minute of the opening half to lay claim to a 24-20 lead at halftime.
The Warhawks maintained their advantage in the third quarter until the Ragin’ Cajuns got a combined 10-point spark from Benedith and Rice. It was Rice finishing off the combo punch with her fastbreak layup at 0:17 resulting in a 37-36 lead.
ULM responded with a pair of free throws to jump back in front 38-37 before the third quarter’s end, but the Warhawks lead quickly vanished as Rice continued to steer the Ragin’ Cajuns in the right direction with the go-ahead basket to open the fourth quarter.
Johnson (13), Benedith (11) and Rice (10) joined Blanton in scoring double figures as the Ragin’ Cajuns once again overcame the absence of injured leading scorer Lanay Wheaton.
Louisiana overcame being outrebounded by ULM (42-30) by generating 23 points off of the 24 turnovers the squad forced the Warhawks into. And, the Ragin’ Cajuns beat ULM at its own game converting 21-of-26 from the free throw line to offset the 18-of-20 showing by the visitors.
Thursday’s win extended the Ragin’ Cajuns series win streak over the Warhawks to 17 games, a streak that dates back to February 2015. Louisiana is now 18-4 vs. ULM in the Garry Brodhead era and increased its lead in the Sun Belt era to 21-13.
UP NEXT FOR LOUISIANA
Louisiana has its first rematch in Sun Belt Conference play when league-leading Troy (14-8, 9-2 SBC) visits the Cajundome on Saturday, February 4. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.
The Ragin' Cajuns dropped a hard-fought overtime decision, 85-78, to the Trojans back on January 14 in Troy, Alabama – the team's lone defeat in the current stretch of six wins in the past seven games.
Louisiana currently trails Troy by one game for the top spot in the SBC standings.
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