Cajuns basketball brings momentum into Carolina road trip
Both the women’s and men’s basketball team have rebounded after recent slumps in the early part of 2017: The women’s team has won four straight after losing four of five games, while the men’s team earned two straight victories coming off a four-game losing streak.
As the end of the season draws closer, things are looking up for the Louisiana teams. This is the time where coaches want their teams to be playing their best basketball heading into the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
The Cajuns will turn their focus on Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State as they go on the road to battle against their conference opponents.
The women’s basketball team is now 15-8 and eyeing a first round bye in the conference tournament after a 65-59 win over ULM on Saturday. The win secured the fourth victory in a row for the Cajuns.
Junior forward Simone Fields is averaging 20 points per game in the streak. Fields ranks third in the conference in scoring with 15.5 points per game on the season. Senior guard Jaylyn Gordon still leads the SBC in scoring with 18.3 points per game.
The second game of their three-game road trip will be on Thursday against the Appalachian State Mountaineers. The Mountaineers have a 10-16 overall record, 5-10 SBC. App has three players who average over ten points per game. Junior Madi Story (13.3 ppg), senior Joi Jones (13.0 ppg) and sophomore Q Murray (10.0 ppg) lead the fifth-ranked scoring attack in the conference.
The Mountaineers also rank second in offensive rebounds and third in blocked shots. App averages 15.1 offensive rebounds per game and block over four shots per game.
The Cajuns will look to play more on the perimeter, as they rank second in the SBC in three-point percentage. Louisiana shoots 32 percent from the three-point line. Do not be surprised if Simone Fields gets involved early in the game. With the way Fields has been playing, the Cajuns should not mind playing through her.
The final road game of the regular season for the women’s team will come against Coastal Carolina. Coastal has lost five of their last six games and have an overall record of 10-15.
Coastal ranks last in free-throw percentage, averaging 64.7 percent at the line. However, they rank third in steals per game with 10.1. Senior Ced Gibson (13.5 ppg) is the eighth-leading scorer in the conference and senior Alexis Robinson is second in rebounds per game with 9.3.
Louisiana will try to make Ced Gibson as uncomfortable as possible on the offensive end. The Cajuns will need to take care of the ball and display good ball movement to avoid turning the ball over against Coastal Carolina.
Tip-off for the women’s game against Coastal Carolina is set for Saturday at noon.
As for the men’s basketball team, it will attempt to extend their winning streak when they play Coastal Carolina on Saturday and Appalachian State next Monday. The men’s team is headed to Conway, South Carolina, after a 85-84 victory at ULM on a stunning half-court buzzer beater by Jonathan Stove.
Coastal Carolina has a 10-5 record at home this season. They rank second in offensive rebounds to Louisiana with 12.8 per game and they are first in defensive rebounds with over 28 per game.
The down side for Coastal is they rank last in field goal percentage and turnover margin. They shoot 42.1 percent per game and are a -2.17 in turnover margin, averaging over 13 turnovers per game.
Louisiana will have their hands tied with one of the best rebounding teams in the conference. Not only that, the Cajuns will try to hold Coastal guards Jaylen Shaw and Elijah Wilson below their scoring averages of 13.7 and 13.3.
The Cajuns need to exploit Coastal’s mistakes and turn turnovers into points. Louisiana will also try to win the rebound battle and limit the amount of second chance opportunities for Coastal Carolina.
Tip-off is at 3:30 p.m.
The last road game for the Cajuns, until they head to New Orleans for the Sun Belt tournament, will be in Boone, North Carolina. Louisiana will play Appalachian State at 6 p.m. Feb. 27.
The Appalachian State Mountaineers also present a 7-4 winning record at home. They average 75 points per game and the Mountaineers are led in scoring by sophomore guard Ronshad Shabazz. Shabazz averages 16.7 points per game, which ranks him third in scoring in the conference. One of their greatest strengths is ball movement. Appalachian is tied for second in assists with the Cajuns with over 14 assists per game.
The Mountaineers’ negatives come on the defensive end. Their opponents score 75.6 points per game against them and shoot over 45 percent from the field. Appalachian ranks 11th in three-point defense, allowing opposing teams to shoot 36.7 percent on the season.
The Cajuns’ high-scoring offense will thrive against the Mountaineers defense. The concerns are on the defensive side for Louisiana. Taking away their leading scorer, Shabazz, can ultimately create problems for Appalachian.
Louisiana seeks to improve upon their respective winning streaks with a couple of successful road wins and return to the Cajundome on a high to conclude the 2016-2017 season.