The LSU Lady Tigers were without their biggest star Wednesday night in the suspended Danielle Ballard.
They may have found a new one in Jenna Deemer.
The freshman guard from Ursuline Academy came off the bench for a game-high 26 points as the Lady Tigers weathered several long runs by Loyola of New Orleans to post a 93-71 exhibition basketball victory at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“I was impressed that when someone had the hot hand like Deemer we were able to find her,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “She also did a nice job of creating her own plays.”
Deemer was 5-of-8 on 3-point attempts, 7-of-10 from the field overall, and 7-of-8 at the free-throw line in 26 minutes court time.
“As a freshman I look at it as a blessing to play in front of my home state and have such support,” Deemer said. “I’m grateful.”
LSU needed someone to pick up the slack for Ballard, whose indefinite suspension for violating unspecified team rules was announced less than four hours before tipoff.
Ballard can still practice with the team during her suspension, according to Caldwell, who did not elaborate on why Ballard was disciplined.
Ballard practiced Tuesday but did not speak to reporters. She wasn’t on the LSU bench Wednesday night.
A 5-foot-9 junior from Memphis, Tennessee, Ballard is LSU’s top returning scorer and rebounder with 10.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Southeastern Conference coaches named her a preseason All-SEC first-teamer Wednesday .
“There’s obviously a disappointment there because we are a team,” Caldwell said. “When a team member is suspended you look for your teammates to step up.
“These three,” Caldwell said, motioning to Deemer, sophomore Raigyne Moncrief and junior transfer Akilah Bethel, “did a nice job of stepping up.”
Playing in her first game since a March knee injury in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Moncrief opened the scoring with a free throw and quickly added a stylish behind-the-head fast-break layup.
She finished with 15 points, and afterward beamed broadly as she talked about achieving her goal of being able to play without thinking about her still braced left knee.
“It felt great just to be out there,” Moncrief said.
“It’s exactly what I wanted.”
Rina Hill and DaShawn Harden added 11 points each. Bethel, a transfer from West Virginia playing her first game in a season and a half, had eight points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Janeicia Neely led Loyola with 24 points.
LSU opened on a 21-1 run but led only 42-34 at halftime in part because the Lady Tigers were dogged by 30 turnovers.
LSU found itself in a 44-44 tie with 16:15 left after a free throw by Loyola’s Meghan Temple, but the Lady Tigers responded with a pair of 3-pointers from Deemer and Anne Pedersen to kick start a 13-0 run and quash the Wolfpack threat.
LSU hosts Mississippi College at 1 p.m. Sunday in another exhibiton game. The Lady Tigers open the regular season Nov. 14 against Arkansas-Little Rock.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.