In its pregame preparations Wednesday, Louisiana Tech coach Tyler Summitt said his staff labeled LSU’s Raigyne Moncrief as “Key player No. 1.”
“And she was tonight,” he said.
Playing with the smoothness and determination she showed through much of her freshman season before suffering a serious knee injury in March, Moncrief recorded her first career double-double.
She scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds, along with career highs of seven steals and six assists, as the Lady Tigers used a huge first-half surge to beat the Lady Techsters 73-59 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
LSU improved to 3-4 with the victory, while Tech fell to 2-3.
“She’s in a different world this year for us,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said of Moncrief. “She’s taking on more of a leadership role. She made the game easier for Anne (Pedersen), Rina (Hill) and Jenna (Deemer).”
Moncrief made the game easier with plays like a nifty bounce pass through traffic early in the first half to Akilah Bethel on a fast break.
Mostly, though she was driving to the rim, collecting baskets, rebounds or drawing fouls. Moncrief’s play most of the night was reminiscent of the way she attacked the basket last season — and suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Georgia Tech.
Though she admittedly wasn’t 100 percent in preseason practice or exhibition games, on this night Moncrief looked as good as ever.
“Ray wasn’t able to play up and down all summer,” Caldwell said. “She was limited even in preseason in August and September. She’s really now getting her rhythm back, getting a feel for the game.”
The Lady Techsters feel for the game during the first half was mostly numb.
Tech got a layup from Chrisstasia Walter at the 15:30 mark to tie the score 4-4, then didn’t make another basket until a 3-pointer by Kelia Shelton 40 seconds into the second half.
The Lady Techsters made just two of 28 shots in the first half, a remarkably dreadful 7.1 percent. Meanwhile, LSU sprinted to a 37-11 halftime lead, outscoring Tech 27-2 from the 12:24 mark on.
“There were some times we got good shots but we couldn’t hit them,” said Summitt, son of legendary former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. “The feedback we got from our players was they were rushing their shots.
“We settled down in the second half and you saw the result.”
Tech racheted up the full-court defensive pressure and LSU’s focus blurred a bit as the Lady Tigers were outscored 48-36 in the final 20 minutes, though the Lady Techsters never got closer than the final margin.
“I’m proud of our team for fighting back,” said Summitt, 23, in his first season as a head coach. “But it’s got to be a 40-minute game.”
“In the second half, I thought our intensity let down a little bit, and Louisiana Tech raised theirs,” Caldwell said. “But we held on, made plays when we needed to and we’re growing and getting better.”
DaShawn Harden added 13 points for LSU, while Jenna Deemer came off the bench with 11 points on 3-of-4 3-point shooting.
Tech’s JaQuan Jackson poured in a game-high 22 points, all in the second half. Shelton added 18 points, while Tiara Davenport had 10.
The game was permeated by a family reunion-type atmosphere for both coaching staffs.
Caldwell and assistant Tasha Butts played under Pat Summitt at Tennessee. They were recruited there by Tech assistant and former player Mickie DeMoss, a long-time Pat Summitt assistant and former head coach at Kentucky.
“I’m extremely proud of him and what he’s done to make his team competitive,” Caldwell said of Tyler Summitt. “Mickie was my coach and I know the energy she brings. He couldn’t ask for better.”
The win was LSU’s 10th straight against Tech.
The Lady Tigers now take an 11-day break for fall semester finals before returning to the PMAC on Dec. 14 to host Southeastern Louisiana.
Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech heads back to Ruston for its home opener Sunday against Loyola of New Orleans.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.