Nikki Fargas rolled a rack of 13 basketballs onto the court inside the LSU's practice facility. They were the only balls her turnover-prone team would be permitted to practice with each day, each unforced error or lazy pass signaling the end of a ball’s use.
What would happen, then, when all 13 balls were wasted?
“We’ll do a little conditioning,” Fargas said. “If we’re going to turn it over, let’s be in great shape getting back.”
Already faced with a short bench after season-ending injuries to Raigyne Moncrief and Ayana Mitchell, turnovers and the inability to get back on the defensive end have begun to plague the Lady Tigers, who will try to snap a four-game losing streak in their Southeastern Conference home opener against Ole Miss tonight at 7:30 p.m.
With the exception of a nine-turnover effort in a 47-44 loss against Samford, LSU has more than 15 turnovers in each of its last four losses, including 25 in a conference-opening loss at Alabama on Sunday, off of which the Crimson Tide scored 20 points.
In the Lady Tigers’ 86-40 loss at No. 1 UConn, the Huskies scored 35 points off 28 Lady Tiger turnovers.
And as intense as Fargas intends on making recent practices, she’s again faced with the dilemma of overworking the few healthy players she’s able to use. Point guard Rina Hill, for example, has played 78 of 80 total minutes in the last two games, leading to some limited practice times as Fargas tries to get her adequate recovery.
The problem Hill sees, though, is not carrying the intensity from those practices to games.
“The Alabama game, we came off to a great start, started off strong for the first five minutes, then our intensity went down,” Hill said. “It’s a matter of putting it together for 40 minutes. We know what we’re capable of but we have to believe in what we’re actually capable of and do it for 40 minutes.”
Guard Jasmine Rhodes, who’s made her first two starts of the season in LSU’s last two games, said practices have centered on rebounding. The Lady Tigers have been beaten on the boards in every game of this four-game skid.
“A lot of running, a lot of rebounding drills,” Rhodes said of recent practices. “[Rebounding issues] might be a little schematic and a little effort mixed together. Sometimes you miss the box out and that’s when the other team gets the rebound. The effort to get down there and box out and push them out of the paint is pretty big for us.”
Against a guard-oriented Rebels team that thrives on dribble-drive penetration, pressing off made baskets and aggressive board crashing, Fargas utilized a quote from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
“It’s all about the ball,” he said.
Of course the Lady Tigers will need to keep the ball, too, to snap the snide.
“It’s always been our biggest challenge,” Hill said of playing 40 smart minutes. “I think we just have to turn around at some point and it has to be soon.”
Fowles named SEC Women’s Legend
Former LSU All-American and reigning WNBA Finals MVP Sylvia Fowles was named the LSU representative to the 2016 Women’s Legends class, which showcases former athletes, coaches and administrators from all 14 SEC schools.
Fowles, the 2008 SEC Player of the Year who helped lead LSU to a Final Four appearance in all four seasons in Baton Rouge, will be recognized along with the 13 other honorees at the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament on March 2-6 in Jacksonville, Fla.