Baton Rouge hasn’t been too welcoming for the nation’s top women’s basketball programs this week.
For the second time in four days, the LSU women’s basketball team upset a ranked opponent at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, this time handing No. 17 Georgia its first road loss of the season 71-60 on Thursday night.
For a program that wasn’t considered a serious contender for the Southeastern Conference’s top teams, the past week has been a bit of a statement.
“It means this team has showcased they’re on of the best teams in the country,” said coach Nikki Fargas. “The two teams we just beat previously have been Top 16 in the country. Our players accepted the challenge that’s been presented and executed our game plan and came away with victories.”
The upset came on the heels of LSU’s double-digit win over then 10th-ranked Tennessee on Sunday, only this time, LSU (14-6, 6-3 SEC) didn’t have to mount a comeback in the second half.
The Lady Tigers held on to their lead for just about the entire game. However, it wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter that LSU was able to build any cushion on the scoreboard.
But unlike most of LSU’s games this season, it was the Lady Tigers' performance from the free throw line that pushed them to victory.
LSU came in shooting just 59.4 percent from the line, fifth-worst in Division I.
But on Thursday, LSU shot 24 of 36 from the free-throw line, which is the most it has hit in a single game this year. Ultimately, it was the 14 points in the fourth quarter that were a deciding factor in the win.
“We wanted to key the ball in (Chloe Jackson's and Raigyne Louis’) hands, and I think that helped our percentage that Chloe is one of our best free-throw shooters,” Fargas said. “It was key for us to run play action where they started fouling late in the game and that helped us solidify our lead.”
Similar to its win over the Lady Vols, LSU was led by the trio of Louis, Jackson and Ayana Mitchell, who combined for 52 points and 29 rebounds.
Jackson continued her scoring hot streak with a game-high 21 points, while Louis fell just one assist shy of a triple-double after scoring 15 points and 10 rebounds.
For Jackson, it is the seventh time since the start of conference play she’s scored 20 or more points.
“The points are a plus, but that’s just what I needed to do,” Jackson said. “But the win in general is good. 20 points is cool, but the win is the main goal.”
But the hottest player on the team at the moment might be Mitchell.
Ever since struggling to contain Teaira McCowan in a loss to Mississippi State — LSU’s only home loss this season — Mitchell said she feels more confident in her game, and it’s shown on the court.
The sophomore post player pulled down 31 rebounds between Thursday night and the Tennessee game, including a double-double against Georgia with 16 points and 15 boards. It was her fourth double-double of the season and third in SEC play.
Mitchell’s play was a big factor in LSU outrebounding Georgia 48-36, the second straight game LSU had a double-digit lead on the boards.
“I feel like I’m in the right position at the right time,” Mitchell said. “My body is where I want it to be and I’m playing more minutes. I honestly don’t know (what’s been different). That’s why I have to give it to (God). Things are starting to flow for us.”