COLUMBIA, Mo. — Bad weather, illness, heartache, attrition and overtime.
All of those hurdles were tossed at the LSU Lady Tigers, who still managed to return home Friday from an extended road trip to Missouri with a 78-74 overtime victory.
“We are a little winded, but our spirits are high,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “It was a great win. We’ve overcome a lot of adversity in the past few days. I am proud of our kids for sticking in there. Missouri never quit, and we didn’t either.”
The win bolstered LSU’s NCAA tournament chances; the Lady Tigers improved to 16-10 and 7-6 in Southeastern Conference play with their third straight win.
LSU flew home immediately after the game as it prepares to host No. 8 Kentucky at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The Lady Tigers are tied for sixth in the SEC with Vanderbilt (17-9, 7-6) but hold the tiebreaker because they beat Vandy in January.
The first meeting between LSU and Missouri as SEC opponents — the teams hadn’t met at all since 1989 — was originally scheduled for Thursday night. But a massive storm that dropped 10 inches of snow on the Columbia area postponed the contest to 1 p.m. Friday. The Lady Tigers arrived in town Wednesday evening to practice but spent all of Thursday at the team hotel.
LSU was already shorthanded, having gone on the road with just eight players since freshman guard Coco Baker had been suspended. On Wednesday, sophomore forward Sheila Boykin was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a potentially dangerous condition in which the body’s immune system attacks a person’s nerves. She will miss the rest of the season.
Sophomore guard Anne Petersen sat out the second half and overtime Friday after becoming ill during the game, and junior guard Jeanne Kenney played after her grandfather died earlier in the week. Since the game was delayed, Kenney could not make it home for the funeral Friday morning.
“For her to come out and did what she did just shows what type of person she is,” Caldwell said. “We couldn’t have done it without her today. I know her grandfather is smiling down on her.”
Missouri (15-12, 4-9), the SEC’s top 3-point shooting team, battled back from a 12-point second-half deficit by making 10 of 20 from beyond the arc. Liene Priede made 4 of 6 and scored a team-high 18 points.
Missouri’s Bri Kulas made it a one-possession game with a running jumper with 1:54 left in regulation. LSU came up empty on its ensuing possession, and Missouri culminated a 9-2 spurt when Kyley Simmons swished a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the score at 66 with 1:13 left in regulation.
LSU had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation with the shot clock off, but Danielle Ballard’s shot was blocked in the lane.
Missouri opened overtime by taking its first lead of the game at 68-68 on a layup by Liz Smith, but LSU’s Shanece McKinney made two free throws to tie it.
Although it managed only one field goal in overtime, LSU converted 10 of 12 attempts from the line and made 19 of 23 overall. Adrienne Webb gave LSU the lead for good at 70-68 when she was fouled in the lane and made two free throws.
McKinney converted two more free throws to make it 72-68 with 1:21 remaining. The senior then blocked a shot on the other end, which allowed Theresa Plaisance to convert at the free throw line.
Plaisance scored a game-high 21 points for her SEC-leading 10th 20-point game of the season. She tied a career high with three 3-pointers and had seven rebounds and three blocks. Webb had 18 points, Bianca Lutley 15 and McKinney 12.