LSU won its third straight game Saturday, a bullish defensive effort with different names stepping up on the perimeter as a team leader sat on the sidelines.
That’s about to become the norm.
After Saturday’s 59-53 win against Long Beach State, LSU coach Nikki Fargas said junior Raigyne Moncrief — who played in the team’s first three games but did not dress out Saturday — will eventually need surgery on an injured left knee, likely ending her season.
“We don’t know the extensiveness of it yet, but we’re preparing as though we don’t have her. That’s what we’re going to continue to do,” Fargas said. “We’re going to miss not having Moncrief on the floor. She brings not only the basketball side of it, but she brings great leadership and a calmness and poise, especially when the games are tight. We’re definitely going to need everybody to step up.”
Moncrief tore her ACL in the same knee during the 2014 NCAA tournament. Fargas did not explicitly say Moncrief will be out for the season, but when she was asked if the team had explored the possibility of a medical redshirt, Fargas said the program has done so and that Moncrief is eligible for one.
Fargas said Moncrief has had “ongoing” issues with the knee and was limited in her practice time throughout the beginning of this season. The junior hit a game-tying shot as time expired in a 61-54 overtime win against UL-Monroe, but had otherwise been spotty from the field through the team’s first three games, shooting 12-for-45 while battling the pain.
“She’s tried to push through,” Fargas said. “But our number one concern for any of our student-athletes is their health and their well-being, so we want to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”
As it will now need to do regularly, LSU turned to Jenna Deemer for perimeter scoring Saturday. She scored 12 of her game-high 17 points in the second half. Ann Jones added 14 on 6-of-9 shooting and eight big rebounds off the bench.
Deemer, Rina Hill and Anne Pederson were the Lady Tigers’ starting guards in Moncrief’s absence, combining for 24 of the team’s 59 points and seven of the team’s 15 assists.
“I don’t think we’re any different,” Deemer said of life without Moncrief. “We just have to step up. Do it for her.”
The 49ers, who had made at least six 3-pointers in each of their first three games and give all five players on the floor the green light, were woeful Saturday, finishing just 1-for-21 thanks in large part to the Lady Tigers’ height and defensive rotations.
Their first 3-pointer didn’t come until the third quarter on their 19th attempt, and it cut a seven-point Lady Tigers lead to four. Twenty-six Lady Tiger turnovers were nearly LSU’s undoing in a game it led by as much as 13.
“It was important for us to tighten up our defense and make sure they didn’t get a fast start,” Deemer said. “We contained and we contested. Left hand up on right-handed shooters, right hand up on left-handed shooters. And get the boards.”
LSU got those boards. They won the defensive glass 31-18 and the overall rebounding battle 41-33. With her team’s lead down to two in the middle of the fourth, Pederson nailed a 3-pointer from the wing — her only 3-point attempt — to stretch it back to five.
Long Beach got back to within two in the waning minutes, but Hill took a charge on the defensive end, and Deemer buried a jumper to extend the lead to four, ensure a third straight win and begin life without one of the team’s heartbeats.
“We’ve really grown and matured in a lot of different areas,” Fargas said. “From start to finish, this was one of our better games as far as just staying in control and controlling the tempo of the game.”