Taken to the limit in three games decided by two points this season and pushed to win in overtime last season at East Tennessee State, the LSU Lady Tigers were apparently in no mood for such dramatics Thursday night.
Even without senior guard Adrienne Webb, LSU jumped out to a quick lead in its return game with ETSU and was never challenged, cruising to an easy 76-42 victory at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“We came out with an agenda,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “We wanted to play a certain way. We wanted to establish ourselves early in the game.”
LSU, coming off a frustrating 66-64 overtime loss to Tulane, improved to 5-3 going into this Sunday’s home game against Louisiana Tech (2 p.m., CST).
ETSU, a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, fell to 2-3.
Webb suffered a blow to the head against Tulane on Sunday and was held out as a precaution though she participated in pregame warmups.
ETSU was also without its leading scorer, junior guard/forward Destiny Mitchell. Averaging 17.5 points per game, Mitchell suffered a concussion in practice Sunday and was not cleared to play.
In January, LSU had to rally from a nine-point halftime deficit at ETSU and withstand a barrage of 10 3-pointers to pull out a tense 71-68 victory.
This time, the Lady Tigers had no such concerns. LSU bolted to a 7-2 lead just two minutes in on a jumper by forward Theresa Plaisance and never looked back.
The Southeastern Conference’s leading scorer and third-leading rebounder at 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds, Plaisance didn’t have to carry the load by herself. She had 16 points, seven rebounds and six blocks (giving her an SEC-leading 28) but got plenty of support.
Caldwell switched away from the four-guard, single-post starting lineup of the past two games, reinserting 6-foot-4 junior Shanece McKinney at center to help give LSU a rebounding edge.
The Lady Tigers were outrebounded in four of their previous five games but won the boards battle Thursday by a 44-39 count. McKinney finished with a game-high nine rebounds and scored eight points.
“Coach emphasized getting on the boards and getting our guards open,” McKinney said. “That’s what I tried to do tonight. But it was mainly getting on the boards.”
For perhaps the first time this season, the Lady Tigers basically did as they pleased in this one — running, defending and distributing the ball (season-high 24 assists) with relaxed ease.
Freshman forward Derreyal Youngblood of John Curtis typified the mindset, finishing with 13 points and five rebounds in the best outing of her young college career.
“Each game I had a little trouble adjusting to playing girls older than me,” she said. “I had to be patient, wait for my time. I had to think about doing the things you can do, playing the way you can play.”
Freshman guard Danielle Ballard added 11 points for LSU, which shot a season-best 54 percent from the floor while holding ETSU to 26.6 percent. Shawn Randall led the Lady Bucs with 13 points.
The 32-point win was LSU’s first double-digit victory of the young season.
Caldwell won her 100th game as a head coach. She is 100-40 overall, 28-14 in two seasons at LSU after going 72-26 in three seasons at UCLA. ... Caldwell lifted the season-long suspension on guard Coco Baker, but the freshman from New Orleans Helen Cox did not play. ... Sophomore forward Sheila Boykin was 2 of 3 from the field, missing her first attempt after making 10 straight in her previous three games. ... Sophomore guard Anne Pedersen made her first career start in Webb’s absence and had seven points.