Four games. Four pivotal, winnable games faced the LSU women’s basketball team between its loss at Tennessee and Thursday’s trip to face No. 1-ranked South Carolina.
Three games so far, three wins for the resurgent Lady Tigers, who are coming off a grinder of a 60-49 win Thursday at Auburn.
Sunday comes another game LSU is favored to win — yet again it must win to bolster its NCAA tournament hopes — as the Lady Tigers host Alabama at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. on the SEC Network. The game can also be heard on WBRP-FM 107.3 and in the Geaux Zone at LSUSports.net.
Once looking like it was staring at its worst season in 20 years, LSU (13-9, 7-3 SEC) has surged into a third-place tie in the Southeastern Conference standings with Mississippi State. Kentucky and Texas A&M are a half-game back at 6-3.
The Lady Tigers’ RPI has been inching out of the depths as well, up to No. 69 as of Saturday.
But LSU coach Nikki Caldwell knows her team can’t slack up now, even though Alabama (12-12, 1-8) is 13th in the conference standings, its only win a 51-50 defeat of Auburn (9-14, 0-10).
“I said to the team at Auburn, everybody in this conference is hunting for that ‘W,’” Caldwell said. “We’re not going to underestimate the competitiveness in our opponent. We’re going to play everyone like we’re playing South Carolina or Tennessee.”
At Auburn, LSU watched for the second straight game as a sizable second-half lead was whittled away.
The Lady Tigers fell behind Missouri at home Monday night after leading by 20 before bouncing back for a 74-65 win. At Auburn, LSU led 38-23 with 14:26 left before Auburn cut the deficit to three with 8:04 left and four with 4:24 left at 50-46.
Again, though, LSU found a finishing kick, outscoring Auburn 10-3 the rest of the way, led by six points from Danielle Ballard.
Ballard had 14 points, her sixth straight double-figure scoring game. Anne Pedersen added 11 points as did Raigyne Moncrief, who has found chemistry with Ballard since the latter’s return from a 14-game suspension to form a dangerous backcourt duo.
“They have a comfort with one another,” Caldwell said, “and a confidence in each other’s ability.”
Though in limited action, Ballard leads LSU with 14.1 points per game. Moncrief averages 11.4 per contest, while DaShawn Harden, now working in a reserve role, averages 10.7.
Ashley Williams, a 6-foot sophomore forward, is Alabama’s lone double-figure scorer on the season with 13.1 points per game and a team-high 6.3 rebounds per contest. The Crimson Tide is coached by Olla, Louisiana, native and former Louisiana Tech assistant Kristy Curry, now in her second season in Tuscaloosa.
LSU’s veteran players will no doubt remember a 78-60 loss to Curry’s Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa last season. The Lady Tigers bounced back to eliminate Bama 78-65 in the SEC tournament.
“We’ve got to be aware of what they’ve got returning,” Caldwell said. “We don’t want to come out flat or overlook anyone. We’re an underdog team, and we have to play that way.”
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.