Although it’ll wear its customary black and gold uniforms Saturday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Long Beach State has LSU guard Jenna Deemer seeing a different hue.
“Just taking everybody as if they’re green,” she said. “Which means they shoot — that’s our terminology.”
After back-to-back defensive-oriented wins in which a trapping press made several appearances, the Lady Tigers’ disruptive defense will face perhaps its biggest test of the season against a streaky 49ers team that has hit 42 percent of its 3-pointers through three games.
Long Beach, which handled LSU 59-44 last season, makes the return trip of a home-and-home with two of its top three scorers still in tow from last season’s team, which finished 22-10.
“We cannot have miscommunication,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said of her defense. “We have to make sure we are closing out and keeping players in front of us because, when you do close out, they are skilled enough to take you off the bounce. So not over-rotating our defense is going to be key as well.”
Using rangy forward Akilah Bethel at the head of the trap, Fargas has mixed both a 1-2-2 trap press and a 2-2-1 scheme after made baskets, forcing Louisiana-Monroe into 27 turnovers in an overtime win last Sunday and Arkansas-Little Rock into 17 giveaways in another victory Wednesday.
The 49ers average 16 turnovers through their first three. Bethel said the team’s goal is to rattle Long Beach before it gets into a halfcourt set, explaining that LSU has set a goal to not allow the 49ers into their offensive sets with more than 15 seconds on the shot clock.
“We definitely get our energy from that, pick up our intensity and it helps us forget that maybe we are tired or maybe we are in foul trouble,” Bethel said. “And it rattles the other team, ultimately. We really try to bring the heat and make sure we’re getting those stops, getting those traps and just playing as aggressive as we can.”
After consecutive games shooting under 38 percent — both with anemic second quarters — Fargas wants to watch her team’s offense crash the offensive glass and show wiser shot selection to get the press working.
LSU has scored a combined 14 points in the second quarter of its past two games, losing first-quarter leads in both games and struggling to find continuity without Alexis Hyder and Rina Hill, who have battled foul trouble.
“It’s definitely been an issue for us,” Fargas said. “Really, our play action stays the same; we don’t make up different plays. Our defensive scheme is still the same. ... We’ve got to keep (Hyder and Hill) on the floor at all times. They have got to be able to adjust to the calls that are being made.”