Adrienne Webb sprinted out ahead of the pack on a run out in the closing moments of LSU’s women’s basketball exhibition with Xavier on Wednesday night, a smile spreading across her face.
It’s easy to be happy when you’re on your way to a 102-42 victory, even one that doesn’t count in the record book.
Over on LSU’s bench, first-year coach Nikki Caldwell also found something to smile about.
Her glee wasn’t over the score, though, but about how her team is trying to grow.
“It’s how we played this game, not what the score is,” Caldwell said. “This was a great challenge for us to start off. Xavier did a great job exposing us in some areas with their defensive pressure.”
An LSU team that will try to use its deep bench to press teams from tip to buzzer found difficulty at times navigating Xavier’s press. The visitors chiseled what was once a 15-point deficit down to five, 29-24 with 5:38 remaining, on a layup by Jasmine Grant after Simon Franklin turned LSU’s Courtney Jones over.
The Lady Tigers had 11 turnovers at the break, but halftime adjustments allowed them to finish with a respectable 17. Meanwhile, LSU racheted up the pressure as it pulled away, recording 13 steals out of Xavier’s 25 turnovers.
“It’s always fun when you play at the level we did and correct your mistakes,” said senior forward LaSondra Barrett, a preseason All-Southeastern Conference selection. “We’re learning.”
Barrett led four LSU players in double figures with a game-high 22 points and tied Jones with seven rebounds. Were it a real game, Barrett would have set a career high with 11 assists.
“LaSondra came out and really made a statement,” Caldwell said. “I’ve been on her pretty hard about how she has to represent this team. Tonight she did it.
“The one thing that will set her apart is her ability to make other people better. She got (Theresa) Plaisance and some other people some easy looks.”
Plaisance, at 6-foot-5 LSU’s tallest player, poured in 20 points on 9 of 11 shooting. But it was the play of freshman Krystal Forthan, a 6-4 forward from Portland, Ore., that drew raves.
Looking at times like a thicker, taller Seimone Augustus, Forthan (the nation’s No. 5 recruit according to ESPN.com) carved through Xavier’s defense for 12 points in 23 minutes of play. Like Augustus, she scored mostly on medium-range jumpers.
“I liked the atmosphere,” Forthan said. “It was very unique and different. I was a little nervous at the beginning.”
A paid crowd of 3,203 showed up on what was an exceptionally festive night for a preseason game. Fans waved gold pom-poms and caught T-shirts flung into the stands by LSU cheerleaders.
Some of them were there with an ulterior motive: LSU gave away a pair of tickets to Saturday’s Alabama football game after a halftime dance contest won by Stephen Keith of Plaquemine.
Keith danced despite wearing a bulky costume designed to look like a Lego man. He billed himself as “Le-geaux Les,” complete with wisps of green pipe cleaners for grass coming out of his mouth.
Keith said the Halloween costume, which usually accompanies him to tailgating at LSU home games, took him three weeks to assemble.
“The head may come with me,” Keith said.
He’s also taking his friend, Ryan Olivier of Plaquemine. He’s leaving behind his girlfriend, Jennifer Rivet, who will be attending the wedding of her best friend that Keith will be missing.
Rivet confirmed she gave Keith her blessing to go. If only LSU’s win against Bama would be so easy to come by as the one Wednesday night.