Just one second into the second half of Friday afternoon’s game, LSU drew an offensive foul against McNeese State. Twenty four seconds later, the Lady Tigers had drawn two more fouls on the Cowgirls.
LSU didn’t capitalize on the opportunity immediately, but the early foul trouble began laying the groundwork for the comeback the Lady Tigers mounted in the second half en route to a 82-75 win against McNeese State in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
LSU (8-3) trailed by as many as 11 midway through the second half, but hit 14 free throws down the stretch to complete the comeback after a slow first half.
“I thought, momentum-wise, (Adrienne) Webb drawing that foul on the very first play was such a huge swing,” said junior guard Jeanne Kenney. “Even though we didn’t get to that point in time to take the lead, it was such a huge swing.
“We put one of their best players in major foul trouble and they had to take them out. Momentum-wise, we just kept going.”
McNeese State (4-5) committed 34 fouls in the game — 23 in the second half — forcing four Cowgirls starters to foul out with two others just one foul away from ejection.
The horde of hacks led to 47 LSU free-throw attempts that eventually saved the Lady Tigers’ day. LSU entered the game with a season average of 65.1 percent, but hit 34 of 47 Friday afternoon for 72.3 percent — just the fourth time this season the Lady Tigers have shot better than 70 percent.
The 34 free throws made tied a school record, and the 47 attempts ranks second in school history.
The Lady Tigers needed the help from the stripe after shooting just 10 of 30 from the field in the first half and going into halftime with a 39-32 deficit, despite coming off their highest offensive production of the season with 90 points against Grambling.
“I thought in the second half we did a much better job of establishing paint points,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “Our guards did a much better job of really trying to penetrate and get layups. When we started doing that, our offense started clicking.”
Nearly every offensive possession down the stretch ran through junior forward Theresa Plaisance, who used her size advantage against a smaller Cowgirls lineup.
Plaisance was held in check for a good majority of the game and had just five points at halftime. But once she settled in, the 6-foot-5 forward, who entered the game as the leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference, still managed 21 points — four higher than her season average of 17.
“It was frustrating, but McNeese did a great job of playing defense on me,” said Plaisance, who added a game-high 14 rebounds and four blocks. “I eventually picked it up a bit and got my composure and started playing better.
“The game plan was to get the ball inside, but I wasn’t finishing like I should have been. Coach just told me to take a deep breath and concentrate, and I did just that.”
Plaisance matched freshman guard Danielle Ballard with 21 points, and Webb chipped in 16.
McNeese guard Ashlyn Baggett led the way for the Cowgirls with 15 points and was the only McNeese starter who didn’t foul out Friday.
“It’s a tough loss because we did control most of the game,” said Baggett, one of three sisters on the McNeese State team. “There were just unlucky plays, and our defense just broke down. (LSU) is a good team, and there’s a reason they are winning.
“There was nothing more we could have done, and we left it all on the court.”
LSU gets a week off before heading to Fort Myers, Fla., to take on Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 28. LSU opens SEC play on Jan. 3 at home against Ole Miss.