With a pesky cough and stuffy sinuses, LSU freshman Krystal Forthan was battling a cold Sunday afternoon when she came off the bench early in the first half against Alabama State.
The Lady Tigers, playing for the first time in two weeks, were a little cold themselves.
Together, they warmed up well enough.
Forthan scored a season-high 17 points, and LSU overcame a sloppy performance to pull away in the second half for a 67-35 women’s college basketball victory at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“Let’s call it ‘not focused all the time,’ ” first-year LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said, smiling. “But it is good to get that (game) underneath your belt, because I knew that they weren’t going to be as sharp as you would hope that they would be, because we’ve been out of competition.”
Indeed. The Lady Tigers hadn’t played since Nov. 27, when Ohio State held them off for a 77-68 win in Columbus, Ohio.
That was the second straight loss for LSU, which went on a two-week break to prepare for final exams.
Sunday afternoon against Alabama State, the Lady Tigers shot 49 percent from the floor and 16-for-19 at the free-throw line.
But LSU also committed 21 turnovers, and the Lady Tigers didn’t take a double-digit lead until the 16:00 mark in the second half, when Adrianne Webb scored inside on a putback that gave the Lady Tigers a 37-27 lead.
LSU finished the game on a 34-8 run.
With that, the Lady Tigers’ 14-day break was over.
Now comes the really fun part.
The Lady Tigers have Monday to regroup, watch video of themselves and address whatever they can on short notice.
At 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, they host UCLA.
Ah, yes; UCLA. That, of course, is the team Caldwell coached for three seasons before jumping to LSU this spring.
Any thoughts on that?
“We need to be able to transition between games better,” Forthan said. “The next game is going to be a little more tough for us, being that coach came from there. We’ve got to be able to hold our ground and represent for her and our team.”
Caldwell and her players both said they’ll have to take better care of the ball, rebound more effectively and contest outside shooters.
Forty of LSU’s 67 points came from the bench Sunday, including 17 from Forthan, who checked in with 17:04 remaining in the first half and was one of seven LSU bench players who logged at least nine minutes.
“She did a great job of finding her shots, finding where her sweet spots were: in the corners, coming off baseline runners, and the high post,” guard Jeanne Kenney said of Forthan. “That’s her sweet spots.”
LaSondra Barrett scored only two points in 16 minutes — in part because Caldwell wanted to use her reserves, and in part because she wants to challenge her star.
“I think she’s got to know that we obviously put a lot of emphasis on her being our go-to player. She’s got to do that on both ends of the floor for us, and she’s somebody that’s very capable,” Caldwell said.
“I do feel like certain players were playing a little bit more inspired, and I thought that the energy of our bench was good. I just felt that there was no dire need to play her those long minutes.”
Alabama State, in its 14th year under coach Freda Freeman-Jackson, committed 31 turnovers and shot only 27 percent from the floor.
The Lady Hornets did make five of 11 shots from 3-point range, including two from Danielle Gazaway, whose 3-pointer with 3:01 left in the first half cut the Lady Tigers’ lead to four points.
“I think that we played a great first half,” Freeman-Jackson said. “The second half, we didn’t come out and played like we should have. ... We turned over the ball entirely too much, and we didn’t give ourselves any second chances. We had 30 turnovers, and we can’t win basketball with those types of turnovers.”