The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns women’s basketball season is officially underway starting with last week, first on Monday, Nov. 7 in the Cajundome against the Houston Cougars, followed by a trip to the Moody Center in Austin to face the Texas Longhorns on Friday, Nov. 11. 

Both teams had decent-to-great recent track records; the Cougars had beaten the Cajuns last December 63–51, and the Longhorns ended last season with an appearance in the Final Four of the NCAA Women’s Tournament.

The first game could not have opened better for the Cajuns. The first five minutes featured an 8–0 run, and the first quarter closed 16–10. The Cajuns maintained a stifling defensive presence, forcing the Cougars into seven turnovers in that first five minutes. 

Both teams made scoring off of their defense a priority; the Cajuns banked 19 points off turnovers, 18 on fast breaks, off 22 Cougars turnovers. The Cougars managed 12 points off 19 Cajuns turnovers, and 14 off fastbreaks.

For scoring, Cajuns forward Tamera Johnson led all players with 15 points on 5–12 from the field. Sherry Porter and Destiny Rice also cracked double digits with 57% and 87% true shooting respectively. The Cajuns were again not outscored in a quarter until a late run in the fourth. 

After the Cougars’ rally to tie the game 10–10 with two minutes into the first quarter, the Cajuns’ lead was never lost, with the final score coming in 55–48. A big part of this outcome was the Cougars’ lack of efficiency; they totaled 14–60 from the field for 23.3% shooting, whereas the Cajuns made the best of 17–48 for a 35.4% rate. The end of the game was a grind to watch: the fourth quarter would see both teams combine for 20 free throws.

In rebounding, the Cougars held the slight advantage over the Cajuns 43–37 and saved a whopping 22 offensive rebounds to the Cougars’ 13. Johnson again led the way for all players with 12 rebounds. Caira Wren pulled in six boards to lead all guards in the contest. 

The Cajuns held a slight advantage in assists, making eight to the Cougars’ six. Rice and Wren also led the way in this stat.

For the game Friday, we saw the inverse of the first matchup. The first five minutes featured a 6–2 Longhorns run, and the first quarter closed 17–8. It was the Longhorns who maintained their lead by forcing the Cajuns into five turnovers in the first five minutes of the game. 

Again the turnovers proved essential to the outcome, but Texas did a much better job of hustling back to prevent fast break scores. The Cajuns scored 18 points off turnovers and only five on fast breaks off 25 Longhorns turnovers. The Longhorns managed 26 points off 28 Cajuns turnovers, and two off fast breaks.

For scoring, Johnson again led the Cajuns with 15 points on 4–7 from the field and 6–8 from the free throw line. Lanay Wheaton was the only other Cajuns player to make double digits with 13 coming off 6–18 shooting. The Longhorns never surrendered the lead, the Cajuns were outscored in every quarter and ended up with a loss, 45–68.

An ugly sign from this game was the Cajuns’ free throw misses. 19–30 for a 63.3% rate for the Cajuns doesn’t look bad on paper, but it pales in comparison to the Longhorns’ 29–38 for 76.3%. Making all eight in the first quarter instead of four would have made the game seem much more manageable at 12–17, but with 8–17 the Cajuns were basically out of the game from the start.

The Cajuns were straight-up out-rebounded in this one 32–42, and were beaten on the offensive glass 12–14. Johnson and Wren again led the way for the Cajuns with seven and five rebounds respectively. Texas’ passing was also much more cohesive and led to more scores; they put up 13 assists to the Cajuns’ six.

On top of the free throw misses is the continued lack of distance shooting. The Cajuns went 3–12 and 2–11 from three in this game for a combined 21.7% rate. The volume of attempts is understandable, as much of the offense so far has predicated on attempts either off drives, fast breaks, or iso scoring. 

Setting up looks from deep could be more of a focus going forward. Next up for the team will be a trip to Lubbock, Texas for the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament against the Colorado Buffaloes and the Jackson State Tigers starting Tuesday, Nov. 15.