Beast went ballistic in the second half, Buffy the Vampire Slayer became the Vanderbilt slayer, and Zeus brought down the thunder at just the right time.
Against an LSU roster bristling with comic book super heroes and Greek gods, it’s a wonder the Commodores lost only 54-51 Sunday to the Lady Tigers.
Last week for their game at South Carolina, LSU’s players decided to give themselves nicknames culled from pop culture and ancient lore and to try to channel themselves into their alter egos.
“It sounds goofy now,” said senior guard Adrienne Webb, a.k.a., Buffy. Next to her on the podium, LSU coach Nikki Caldwell looked ready to roll her eyes.
But she was also ready to give in to whatever motivational ploy would work to help her team get a crucial win over a talented Vanderbilt team.
So what if she now has to coach Professor X and Xena the Warrior Princess?
“We are a team that has turned a corner with our intensity on the defensive end,” Caldwell said.
What does it matter if that turn is onto the road to Mount Olympus?
For a long time Sunday, it looked as it would take a super hero-type effort for LSU (12-7, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) to pull out the victory over Vandy (13-5, 3-2).
After an early six-point lead, the Lady Tigers’ offense was stifled much of the first half. LSU shot only 27.3 percent and went into the halftime locker room down 24-16.
Theresa Plaisance (nickname: Beast), the SEC’s second-leading scorer with 17.8 points per game, had just five points in the first 20 minutes.
She went into total Beast mode in the second half, though, scoring 11 of LSU’s 13 points in a critical four-minute stretch to bring the Lady Tigers back from a 10-point deficit for a 34-34 tie with 11:44 to go.
In all, Plaisance poured in 21 second-half points to finish with 26, her most ever in an SEC game.
In Caldwell’s mind, Plaisance has completed the transition from part-time role player as a sophomore to go-to “Beast” in her junior year.
“She’s stepped up in a big way and is not just one of the best players in the SEC but the nation,” Caldwell said. “From offense to the defensive end, she blocks shots, rebounds, takes charges, and you can play her anywhere. And we have played her from point guard to the five (center) spot.”
Despite Plaisance’s super play, the game was far from LSU’s at that point. Plaisance couldn’t get over in time to defend a pair of 3-pointers from in front of the Vandy bench by VU’s Christina Foggie, and Vandy went up 50-47 with 2:46 left on a jumper by Elan Brown.
But LSU fought back as well. Webb made both ends of a one-and-one with 1:46 left, then Plaisance posted up on the right wing and buried a 3-pointer for a 52-50 lead with 1:08 to go.
“My confidence is high,” Plaisance said, “but it goes back to my teammates and coaches. They have confidence in me and help me have confidence in myself. Without them, I wouldn’t be doing half the things I’m doing.”
Tiffany Clarke, who battled Plaisance inside and was also highly effective with 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, made one of two free throws with 50.8 seconds left to make it a 52-51 game. Webb then missed the front end of a one-and-one at the 36.7 mark, giving Vandy a chance to work for a winning shot.
It’s a shot that never happened. Bianca Lutley (Zeus) reached out and swiped an entry pass in the lane from Kady Schrann with a little more than eight seconds left. Lutley then went to the line and calmly drained her one-and-one opportunity with 7.5 ticks left.
Vandy had one last desperate chance to tie, but its bid came off badly. LSU put on a full-court press and left the Commodores with nothing better than a contested, off-balance 3-point try from the top of the key by Foggie that smacked high off the backboard and bounced harmlessly away as time expired.
“Obviously, LSU confused us,” Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said, referring to LSU’s second-half strategy to switch from press to zone to press to man defenses. “We were hesitant and confused.”
Webb finished with 10 points for LSU, while Danielle Ballard had nine points and nine rebounds. Foggie had 13 points for Vandy.