Silento’s “Watch Me” blared over the loudspeakers. Cameras panned over the estimated 5,000 East Baton Rouge Parish schoolchildren gathered in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, all on a field trip with the intent to scream for their 21/2-hour reprieve from school.
That screaming turned to singing. After “Watch Me” it was Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen.” Then Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.” Kids ranging from 6 to 9 years old sang every word.
“So were they,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas deadpanned, two players sitting beside her.
Jenna Deemer and Shanice Norton laughed in agreement.
“Since we have a short bench,” Norton said, “it’s always good to have people in the stands behind us throughout the whole game. It really picks up the tempo with things.”
Dressing just eight healthy players, LSU surged to a 20-point lead midway through the second quarter as the children shrieked in approval, putting together its most complete win of the season an 86-36 victory over Texas Southern.
LSU made its first seven shots and remedied a season-long turnover problem, giving the ball away just six times while relying on Alexis Hyder and Rina Hill to stabilize an offense decimated by season-ending injuries to Raigyne Moncrief and Ayana Mitchell.
Mitchell had surgery this week and Moncrief’s is scheduled for later this week, Fargas said. A third injured player, Anne Pedersen, didn’t dress out after suffering a concussion against Marist. Fargas said she is hopeful Pedersen can return for the Lady Tigers’ next game against UC-Santa Barbara on Dec. 13 after final exams.
“We’re committed to playing hard, no matter how many we have,” Deemer said. “We just have to play hard and I think that’s what we went out and did (Tuesday).”
Each of LSU’s eight players scored at least six points, headed by five in double figures. Two — Norton, who led all scorers with 15, and Alliyah Fareo — set career highs, while Hyder fell one rebound short of a double-double.
Hyder, who gave up five inches to 6-foot-4 Texas Southern center and leading scorer Kiana Vines, neutralized her early, not allowing her to attempt a field goal or grab a rebound in a torrid first quarter for an offense that has struggled at times with consistency.
“When the ball’s put on the wing, it needs to look like five people are defending the basketball,” Fargas said. “I think our back line did a nice job trying to be physical and disrupt any entry passes into Vines. She’s a very good basketball player. We had an opportunity to scout her and we wanted to take away certain action.”
Hyder drove the lane against Vines for the first LSU basket of the game — a layup through contact. She got it again two possessions later, ducking Vines’ contact for another layup off a drop step to put LSU up 7-3.
It was all part of a 16-3 run that erased an early 3-2 Texas Southern lead and put LSU up by 13 after a quarter where it shot 68 percent. An 8-0 spurt to begin the second quarter, all with Deemer on the bench with foul trouble, pushed the LSU lead to 48-24 at halftime.
LSU forced Texas Southern into 13 of its 26 turnovers throughout a dismal second half where the visiting Lady Tigers scored just 12 points and made four field goals in 20 minutes, causing the LSU lead to swell as big as 52.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty that was floating around the air (after the team’s 1-2 appearance in the Gulf Coast Showcase last weekend),” Fargas said. “I was glad that they, within less than 48 hours, came together and said ‘This is how we’re going to play a certain way.’ That’s us being one of the hardest working teams out there with eight people.”