Raigyne Moncrief is a “Finding Dory” fan.
And right now, the LSU junior guard would welcome a little short-term memory loss much like her finny favorite.
Moncrief and the LSU women's basketball team (17-8, 6-6 Southeastern Conference) face No. 23 Texas A&M (19-6. 9-3) at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center coming off a 70-68 loss at SEC cellar-dwelling Vanderbilt on Monday. That defeat had major negative implications for LSU’s conference tournament seeding and didn’t do the team’s NCAA tournament projections any good either.
And for Moncrief, although she led her team with 20 points, there’s personally having to get over missing her last four shots, including two in the closing seconds after the Commodores had overcome a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to take the lead with 28 seconds left.
“You want to forget about the losses and move on, but sometimes it’s easier said than done,” said Moncrief, LSU’s scoring leader at 15.6 points per game. “Everybody knows we lost a close game that we shouldn’t have, even though it doesn’t matter who you lose to.
“We just can’t afford to let ourselves dwell on it, because we’ve got another game to play.”
However, there’s some déjà vu involved with this one.
When the Lady Tigers played the Aggies last month, they saw another nine-point fourth-quarter lead slip away as they went without a field goal over the final 4:16. A&M won 54-52 in a game in which it led for a total of 32 seconds.
“That was a tough loss for them, just like the Vanderbilt game was,” Aggies coach Gary Blair said. “But that’s life on the road in the SEC.
“I’m sure LSU is going to reach down deep and try to get one against us back.”
That the Lady Tigers need to do.
While losing at Vanderbilt did not eliminate them from being a top-four seed in the SEC tournament, which means a bye into the quarterfinals, there are three teams (Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri) ahead of them for fourth place, meaning the Lady Tigers not only would likely have to win out, they will also need some help.
Also, although the Vanderbilt loss, LSU’s first to a team with an RPI lower than No. 21, dropped the Lady Tigers’ RPI only from 24th to 29th and their projected NCAA seeding from a No. 7 to a No. 8 according to RealTimeRPI.com, it’s certainly not a direction they want to continue headed in considering that after Thursday’s game they have road games at Georgia and Auburn before the Feb. 26 regular-season finale against Vanderbilt.
That’s something LSU coach Nikki Fargas is making sure her team is aware of. Each day’s practice schedule includes the SEC standings.
“When you’re on a road going somewhere, it helps to have a map showing you where are and what’s ahead of you,” she said. “Ever since we played A&M the first time, every game has been the biggest game on our schedule because we’ve had something important at stake.
“So I want our players to have an awareness of who is ahead of them, who’s below them and what we have left as we head for our final destination.”
Certainly the Aggies present a tough test for LSU.
They have SEC’s third-leading scorer (Danni Williams, 17.8 points per game), No. 2 rebounder (Anriel Howard, 11.0), No. 2 in field-goal percentage (Khaalia Hillman, 63.6) and the league’s assist leader Curtice Knox (9.8).
And starting with the victory against LSU, A&M has won five of its past six, most recently a 61-59 victory at Tennessee that was the first ever in Thompson-Boling Arena for Blair, a Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer with 736 victories in 32 seasons.
“When we played LSU the first time, our goal then was just to get into the NCAA tournament,” Blair said. “Now we see the potential to finish toward the top of our league and maybe get a pretty good seeding.
“But LSU’s still got a lot to play for, too.”
That’s one thing Moncrief does remember.
“There’s nothing we can do about the games we’ve lost except to learn from them,” she said. “We’ve worked awfully hard to get this far to let it slip away, and we know how much we need to win this one.
“We’re not finished yet.”