Though only 8-8 overall and 2-2 in Southeastern Conference play, the LSU Lady Tigers have shown some signs of improvement in recent games, especially since the reinstatement of previously suspended guard Danielle Ballard a week ago.
But improving ultimately means winning, and it is to that test LSU will be put once again against another ranked team on the road.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Thursday between LSU and No. 15-ranked Mississippi State (18-1, 3-1 SEC) in Starkville, Mississippi.
The game will be televised online on SEC Network Plus and the WatchESPN app and can be heard at WBRP-FM 107.3 and in the Geaux Zone at LSUSports.net.
LSU led No. 9 Texas A&M by seven at halftime Sunday but couldn’t hold on, falling 55-48 to the Aggies.
Meanwhile, State is coming off its first loss, a 78-62 decision at Vanderbilt, a team LSU beat 64-44 in Baton Rouge on Jan. 8.
Despite that, LSU coach Nikki Caldwell has plenty of respect for her opponent.
“I think Mississippi State is a hardnosed, defensive team,” she said. “I think they are a team that has really adopted (coach Vic Shaefer’s) style of play. He likes that get after you, one pass away, deny the basketball and eliminate easy cuts to the ball.”
The Bulldogs are led offensively by freshmen Victoria Vivians and Morgan William. Vivians ranks third in the SEC with 15.3 points per game while William averages 10.2 points and 3.8 assists per game.
“Offensively, you have to make sure that we are aware of their guard play,” Caldwell said. “Vivians can shoot the basketball from anywhere. We are really going to have to focus in on not allowing her to go off because she is very capable.”
Senior guard DaShawn Harden continues to lead LSU in scoring with 11.9 points and 2.4 steals per game. Backcourt mate Raigyne Moncrief follows with 10.3 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds pre game.
Ballard, a preseason first-team All-SEC pick who was suspended for LSU’s first 14 games, is averaging 4.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game so far.
The Lady Tigers, who have dominated the all-time series with State 46-6 including eight straight wins, are in the midst of playing four straight ranked opponents for the fist time since facing six in a row in 2002-03.
LSU returns home at 1 p.m. Sunday to take on No. 10 Kentucky, then plays next Thursday at No. 6 Tennessee.
To survive this stretch, Caldwell says the Lady Tigers have to be the best version of themselves.
“There was a team that held a very good Texas A&M team to 18 points” in the first half, Caldwell said. “Then, there was the team that allowed 37 points in a half. Which one are we? Who do you want to become?
“I hope when the other team rears its head — the team that gave up 37 points — that you remember how it felt losing against A&M and that you don’t want to have that happen again and that you will change it.”
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.