A couple of thousand hardy souls came to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Sunday, dodging the raindrops and the Mardi Gras beads.
They were treated to an incredible performance. The kind of show LSU women’s basketball has often put on in years past, with the Lady Tigers standing toe-to-toe with a highly ranked opponent and coming away with a huge victory, 80-78 over No. 14-ranked Texas A&M.
It was a team win, and more about the supporting cast in a moment. But no one shined brighter than the stars of LSU’s team: junior guard Chloe Jackson and senior guard Raigyne Louis.
They may be the best offensive backcourt in the Southeastern Conference. Sunday, they piled up 53 of the Lady Tigers’ 80 points.
Jackson’s game and name harken back nearly 30 years ago to Chris Jackson, the All-American point guard who set the still standing NCAA men’s freshman scoring record in 1989 (30.2 points per game). Chloe Jackson, the transfer from North Carolina State and no relation to the man now named Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, averages a slightly more modest 18 points per game, but she can fill it up with the best of them.
“I have one of the top scorers (in the SEC) to my right,” Louis said in the postgame news conference, motioning to Jackson next to her. “It’s so fun playing. We go out there and ball, and we get our team to ball.”
Louis, formerly Raigyne Moncrief before she married former LSU linebacker Lamar Louis this past summer, has the unorthodox chicken-wing jump shot but the most all-around game. She’s the only player in Lady Tigers history to log a career with 1,500 points, 600 rebounds, 300 assists and 250 steals. Louis added another well-rounded line Sunday with 26 points, six rebounds to share the team lead, three assists and a steal.
“Her energy is just great,” Jackson said. “I definitely feed off her. She’s our leader.”
Conceding size and height to the hulking Aggies — LSU coach Nikki Fargas played 6-foot-2 Ayana Mitchell in the five spot most of the game to give the Lady Tigers a better chance to push tempo — the Lady Tigers relied heavily on their perimeter game. LSU was outscored 44-20 in the paint.
But it wasn’t just Jackson and Louis. Khayla Pointer came off the bench to hit two big second-half 3-pointers as LSU had to claw back from an eight-point third-quarter deficit. And little Jaelyn Richard-Harris, generously listed at 5-4, snuck inside to tie up Texas A&M’s virtually unstoppable 6-5 center Khaalia Hillsman (23 points, 11 rebounds) with 6.1 seconds left, keeping her from posting up for what could have been a game-tying basket.
“This group deserved this win,” said Fargas of her team’s fourth top-20 victory this season. “We played hard, and down the stretch we made the plays we needed to.”
The only thing the Lady Tigers didn’t do well was shoot free throws. LSU is far and away the SEC’s worst free-throw shooting team at under 62 percent. Sunday they were 11 of 20 at the line and in line to lose if A&M’s Chennedy Carter made a desperation 3-pointer from in front of her team’s bench as the clock hit zero.
She didn’t. LSU won. And Jackson and Louis shined just a little brighter.