On Wednesday, Nov. 2, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajun’s women’s basketball team saw their first in-game action of the season in an exhibition game against the Spring Hill College Badgers, a Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Division II team that has a lot of experience against Sun Belt Conference opponents.
This game won’t count towards the Cajuns’ regular season record, but it was an important preseason experiment to test both the starting rotation and deep bench players; thus, game minutes were divided up almost equally among the entire roster. No one besides the new center Wilnie Joseph logged over 20 minutes in this contest, and everyone got at least one shot up and scored at least one point.
Right away, the Cajuns jumped out to a 10–0 lead within the first three minutes and a 16–0 lead in less than five minutes. They accomplished this with a lockdown defensive focus: a series of steals and forced turnovers by guards Destiny Rice and Lanay Wheaton allowed great open fastbreak opportunities for forwards Tamera Johnson and Caira Wren.
Scoring off turnovers was huge for the Cajuns this game; they would end the night with 31 points, 26 of them on fast breaks, off 26 Badgers turnovers, as opposed to their two points (none on fast breaks) off nine from the Cajuns.
In the second half, the scoring continued to pour in. Wheaton led the way with 14 points on a perfect 7–7 from the field and Alicia Blanton put up 13 points on over 50% true shooting. The Cajuns were not outscored in a quarter until the fourth and never gave up the lead, with the final buzzer sounding 77–33.
The rebounders had a strong outing in this game as well. The Cajuns outrebounded the Badgers 43–31, and saved 16 offensive rebounds to the Cougars’ nine.
The strength and physicality of Johnson and Wren was already established last season: even more encouraging is the hustle of some fresh faces. In their first times on the floor in Cajuns’ uniforms, guard Jaylyn James and center Mariah Stewart both tied for second on the team by grabbing five rebounds.
Assists were also made at a healthy rate. The Cajuns totaled 14 assists to the Badgers’ seven, with Wheaton, Rice, Wren and Imani Rothschild leading the way in the stat.
Another huge positive for the team is the homecoming of Teurlings Catholic standout and McNeese transfer Lizzy Ratcliff. After spending almost two years away from basketball due to COVID-19 and injury, she posted a productive night statistically and looked engaged throughout.
One concern going forward is the three-point capability of the team. The Cajuns ranked in the bottom half of the league at 29% from three last year, and was sixth-lowest in the nation with just 88 three-pointers made. In a time where teams are attempting 500, 600, or even more than 700 threes in a season, the Cajuns only attempted 301 to average about 12 a game last season.
The team definitely picked up the pace this game with 20 attempts and five makes for 25%, but the rate will definitely be something to monitor when the season begins against the Houston Cougars on Monday and the Texas Longhorns on Friday.