LSU’s offense was efficient enough in the first and and fourth quarters Thursday night. The problem was what happened in between them.
After hanging around during the opening period, the Lady Tigers couldn’t keep up with No. 11 Mississippi State in a 71-52 loss in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. LSU (8-15, 2-7 Southeastern) scored only 16 points during the first and second quarters combined as the Lady Bulldogs (20-4, 7-3 SEC) built an insurmountable lead.
“In the first quarter we were able to come out and show we could play with one of the best teams in the country,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said. “But it’s a 40-minute game, and that level of intensity and focus has to be maintained for the entire game.”
Undermanned again due to a slew of injuries, the Lady Tigers relied on just six players to split the majority of minutes. Mississippi State had nine players log at least 10 minutes.
LSU attacked the basket early, playing the Lady Bulldogs to a 10-10 tie after one quarter. Instead of the plodding, clock-draining pace Fargas recently adopted to keep her players fresh, the Lady Tigers made aggressive cuts to the basket and pushed the ball off fast-breaks.
But the second quarter was a different story right from the start. Mississippi State opened the period on a 9-1 run, flustering LSU’s offense while finally settling into a rhythm offensively. The Lady Tigers, on the other hand, went cold from the field, missing their first seven shots of the quarter as the deficit grew to 23-12.
The Lady Bulldogs made 8-of-11 field goals in the second quarter, during which they outscored LSU 20-6 en route to a 30-16 halftime advantage.
“It was our execution offensively and making shots,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said of his team’s second-quarter eruption. “We just made shots. ...When we got an open look, we knocked down those open looks.”
The team traded a few buckets after the break, but Mississippi State eventually broke out on an 8-0 run that put the Lady Tigers down 19. Forward Alexis Hyder picked up her fourth foul with just less than seven minutes left in the third quarter, thinning out Fargas’ bench even further.
Freshman guard Shanice Norton, who finished with a game-high 15 points, completed a 3-point play to make it a 40-26 game late in the period. But that’s as close as LSU got for the rest of the night.
The Lady Bulldogs closed the quarter with a nine-point flurry, effectively ending any hopes of a comeback. Schaefer, however, said his team built its lead mostly because of stingy defense.
“In the third quarter we had some really good defensive stops on some run-outs and got some steals,” he said.
Mississippi State, which won in Baton Rouge for just the second time in school history, added a five-point burst after the quarter break. But then the Lady Tigers found some life underneath the basket that translated into a 26-point outburst, which equaled its score through the first three quarters combined.
“I think we were more aggressive since we were down by a lot and didn’t have the option to be very passive in the fourth quarter,” junior guard Rina Hill said.
Sophomore guard Victoria Vivians led the way 14 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs, who won the rebounding battle 35-26. Hill and senior forward Akilah Bethel, who played with a face mask to protect a broken nose she sustained during practice Sunday, were the only other LSU players to score in double-digits.
The schedule doesn’t get much easier moving forward for the Lady Tigers, who travel to face No. 18 Kentucky at 11 a.m. Sunday in Memorial Coliseum.