What gift to give the players on a basketball team averaging 21.6 turnovers per game?
A basketball, to care for and take with them everywhere - and LSU women’s coach Nikki Caldwell means everywhere.
“They have to take care of the ball all day,” Caldwell said. “They take it to class.”
Whether that will help No. 20-ranked LSU cut down on the turnovers Sunday when it plays at No. 18 Ohio State (4 p.m., Big Ten Network) remains to be seen.
But Caldwell said her assistants made the suggestion, and she figured she had to try something. Only once in its first five games - in a 65-62 overtime loss at Tulane on Nov. 19 - has LSU had less than 20 turnovers.
In that game, the Lady Tigers had 18, and to their coach’s way of thinking, that’s still way too high.
Does Caldwell have a turnover limit in mind?
“Twelve or 13,” she said somewhat facetiously. “One per player.
“We’re having 22 less scoring opportunities per game. That makes our offense too choppy. We make a run, go a couple of possessions, and here comes a turnover.
“That also limits our opportunity to get on the offensive glass and get second and third scoring chances.
“The worst thing you can do is give the ball to the other team.”
Or simply not put the ball in the hole. In a 44-43 loss at home Tuesday to Northwestern, LSU (3-2) shot 30.2 percent from the field in addition to committing 22 turnovers.
“We have to be more efficient in our possessions,” Caldwell said.
“This has been a good week of practice. The team has done a good job of responding and focusing on fundamentals.”
Caldwell plans to attack Ohio State (4-0) with a more guard-oriented lineup featuring last season’s leading scorer Adrienne Webb (6.8 points, 4.6 rebounds per game) in the backcourt along with Jeanne Kenney (6.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and point guard Destini Hughes (4.8 points, 2.0 assists per game). It will be the senior Webb’s first start this season.
Webb replaces freshman Krystal Forthan, who returns to the bench. Senior forwards LaSondra Barrett (12.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Courtney Jones (5.0, 4.8) will also start.
Ohio State is led by the potent backcourt scoring duo of Tayler Hill (18.8, 3.0) and Samantha Prahalis (17.5, 4.3).
“They will be very disciplined,” Caldwell said. “They have great guard play and have got some returning players who play in key games who know exactly what it takes to win.”
After the Ohio State trip, LSU will return home for a pair of contests Dec. 11 against Alabama State and Dec. 13 against UCLA, where Caldwell was head coach the past three seasons.