Injury-depleted and offensively challenged, returning home for only their second game in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center since Jan. 20 wasn’t much of a cure for the LSU Lady Tigers.
Using only six players once again until the closing seconds, LSU frittered away too many possessions to Auburn’s sticky trapping defense Monday night and lost another game in a lost season, this by a score of 63-53.
With its 10 loss in its past 12 games, LSU fell to 8-14 and 2-7 in the Southeastern Conference.
Auburn is 14-8 and 4-5.
LSU had 24 turnovers after averaging 16.8 per game coming in. LSU forced 30 Auburn turnovers, but Auburn made LSU’s turnovers hurt worse.
Points off turnovers: Auburn 26, LSU 18. It almost exactly matched the point differential between the two teams.
“We wanted the game to be a low-scoring game,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said. “It almost played into our favor with the exception of our turnovers.”
The Lady Tigers surpassed the 50-point mark for only the third time since starting SEC play a month ago but managed only 15 field goals on 45 attempts and were 0-for-6 from 3-point range.
LSU did attempt 36 free throws but missed 13, misses that could have at least given the Lady Tigers a chance if they’d gone in. Auburn, meanwhile, made 23 field goals on 49 percent shooting and was a more efficient 15-of-21 at the free-throw line.
“It definitely wasn’t one of the prettiest games,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “But it was one of those games where our kids came out and had a lot of energy and played with a lot of effort.”
LSU was again without starting guard Jenna Deemer (illness) and reserve forward Ann Jones (ankle). Deemer missed their sixth game, Jones her fourth.
The Lady Tigers added to their list of medical issues before this game when starting forward Akilah Bethel broke her nose Sunday in practice. Forward Tatum Neubert, sitting out this season under NCAA transfer rules, suffered a concussion in the same practice.
Bethel played anyway, wearing a face mask before she fouled out in the closing seconds with 10 points and four rebounds.
“We didn’t know if we would have her,” Fargas said of Bethel. “We put a ‘beautiful’ face mask on her, but some of those balls she couldn’t see. The fact she was doing all she can says a lot.”
What made the loss a little more discouraging for LSU is Auburn had been one of the SEC’s worst road teams. Those Tigers were coming off a 63-30 thrashing Thursday at Georgia, a team LSU beat 53-46 in Athens on Jan. 24.
LSU looked like it might extend Auburn’s road woes early, opening with a quick 6-0 lead. But the Lady Tigers fell victim to Auburn’s persistent full-court pressure, falling behind 12-6 before ending up down 12-8 after the first quarter.
“We knew they would press the whole game,” LSU point guard Rina Hill said. “We prepared as guards, but we didn’t do a good enough job being aggressive breaking the press.”
LSU rallied for a 12-12 tie with 8:08 left in the second when Bethel scored a basket off an assist from Alexis Hyder. But Auburn senior center Tra’cee Tanner responded with a three-point play at the 7:40 mark and LSU never caught up.
LSU trailed 38-29 after three quarters then mounted a rally to start the fourth, getting within 38-34 with 8:11 left on a free throw by Hyder. But Auburn went on a 15-3 run over the next four-plus minutes to take its biggest lead, 53-37, with 3:41 left on a jumper by Brandy Montgomery and coasted home.
Hyder again led LSU with 17 points to go with nine rebounds. Hill had 11 points, while Jasmine Rhodes had 10.
Katie Frerking and Tanner led Auburn’s balanced scoring with 13 points.
The win snapped a four-game Auburn losing streak against LSU. It was Auburn’s first win at the PMAC since January 2010.
LSU is at home again Thursday against No. 13 Mississippi State. Tipoff is at 8 p.m.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.