Perhaps Sunday’s game against UC Santa Barbara could be considered the calm before the storm for the LSU women’s basketball team.

The 5-4 Lady Tigers will be a big favorite to handle the struggling 1-8 Gauchos, but after that comes the season’s most daunting nonconference road trip: Saturday at 7-3 Rutgers followed Dec. 21 by a game with No. 1-ranked Connecticut in Hartford.

Coach Nikki Fargas knows her team needs this game to work on some key areas to prepare for what’s to come.

“We’ve identified a couple of areas that we’ve got to be better at,” she said. “One, we’ve got to shoot a higher percentage at the free-throw line. We are getting ourselves there enough times. Our goal is to make 20 attempts per game. Obviously, we don’t want to send our opponent to the free-throw line.

“(Two) we want to make our layups. We’ve got a lot of opportunities in the paint that we’ve missed. If we can cut down on missing those shots and making free throws, that can potentially be a 30-point swing for us.”

Tipoff for the UCSB game is set for 3 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and heard on WBRP-FM 107.3 and in the Geaux Zone at LSUSports.net.

The Lady Tigers are coming off a 12-day break for fall semester final exams, their last game an 86-36 rout of Texas Southern on Dec. 1.

Because of injuries, LSU was able to put only eight players on the court. Fargas is optimistic the break gave her team time to heal, particularly senior guard/forward Anne Pedersen.

Pedersen missed the Texas Southern game because of a concussion she suffered during a November tournament in Florida.

“Our hope is to have Anne this weekend,” Fargas said. “We’ve been progressing her slowly. She has been cleared to practice.

“She’s ready to go, and the team is excited to have her back with us.”

Pedersen averages 3.7 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.

Shanice Norton, a 5-8 freshman guard from London, filled in well in Pedersen’s place against Texas Southern. She scored a game-high 15 points with five rebounds and three assists.

Former Ursuline Academy standout Jenna Deemer continues to lead the Lady Tigers with 11.3 points per game, while forward Akilah Bethel leads LSU with 6.2 rebounds. Makala Roper, a 5-foot-7 sophomore guard, leads the Gauchos with 12.4 points per game.

UCSB remains in Louisiana for a game at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Several promotions are planned for Sunday’s contest, which is being tabbed the “Holiday Sweater Game.” The first 500 fans will receive an LSU ID wallet, and fans who bring a new, unwrapped toy for the Holiday Toy Drive will receive a discounted ticket price of $2.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.