It has been a long time since the LSU women’s basketball program has had to value to moral victories, but so far this season the Lady Tigers will take wins any way they can get them.
After an alarmingly poor effort Monday in a 52-44 win over Jackson State, LSU lost but played better Wednesday while dropping a 51-45 decision to Tulane. The Lady Tigers outrebounded Tulane 35-27 and were able to dictate a slowdown pace.
Now LSU (2-2) takes another step up in class when it host No. 22 Rutgers at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“I’m looking for us to have daily improvement, and I feel as though we have improved,” coach Nikki Caldwell said. “I feel as though we have done a nice job taking some of the things that have challenged us last week and have been better. We are going to continue to work on that.”
Continuing to play without suspended Danielle Ballard, a preseason All-Southeastern Conference junior guard, LSU is short on experience.
“We’ve got some players that haven’t seen action in over a year starting with (Akilah) Bethel and (Ann) Jones being transfers and starting for us now” at forward, Caldwell said. “It’s going to take time, but the future is bright.”
Rutgers is on the road for the first time after home wins over Saint Joseph’s (76-52) and Northeastern (74-60). Rutgers is led by 5-foot-9 sophomore guard Taylor Scaife, averaging 19 points.
“The Scarlet Knights are explosive in transition,” Caldwell said. “They have guard play that really can make baskets and really create for themselves and their teammates. This is a very disciplined team, a team that understands the demand of playing a high-intensity defensive game. They are going to extend their pressure full court. They can mix it up in the half court. It’s going to be a great challenge that we look forward to.”
Sophomore guard Raigyne Moncrief has looked solid coming off a knee injury suffered in March in the first round of the NCAA tournament, leading LSU with 11.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Bethel, a transfer from West Virginia, had a game-high 16 points against Tulane and averages 8.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 steals. Jones, a transfer from Memphis, averages 6.8 points and 6.8 rebounds.
In recognition of National Girls & Women in Sports Day, Saturday’s game was designated as the program’s annual Sue Gunter Classic, honoring LSU’s late longtime coach.
Gunter, inducted to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame shortly after her death in 2005, was 442-221 in her 22 seasons at LSU and is credited with leading the Lady Tigers to their first Women’s Final Four appearance in 2004.
LSU signs four-star Mitchell
The Lady Tigers picked up a recruit for the 2015-16 season Friday, announcing it has signed Ayana Mitchell.
A 6-2 forward from Salem High in Conyers, Georgia, Mitchell is ranked No. 70 on ESPN’s HoopGurlz 100.
“Ayana Mitchell is an outstanding competitor,” Caldwell said. “She’s someone who’s going to bring a lot of energy to our team. She’s an aggressive rebounder and is someone who will help us defensively. She is a very skilled offensive player who will be a threat in the paint.”
As a junior, Mitchell averaged 18.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 3.7 steals en route to earning Class 5A All-State honors.
The game will be shown online on SEC Network+. … Led by 27 points from Moncrief, LSU beat Rutgers 69-65 last year en route to the title in the Barclays Center Women’s Invitational in New York. … The first 1,000 fans Saturday will receive a free LSU hair band. … After the game, LSU will host a Dads and Daughters event. To sign up, visit LSUSports.net/DadsandDaughters.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.