Defensive energy helps Lady Tigers beat Sam Houston State 71-45 _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN OUBRE -- LSU's Jenna Deemer brings the ball up court against Sam Houston's Morghen Day on Saturday at the Maravich Center. Deemer scored 16 points in the Lady Tigers' 71-45 win.

After missing it Friday afternoon, the LSU women’s basketball team had a seat on the energy bus Saturday night.

LSU volleyball coach Fran Flory introduced the bus — a reference to Jon Gordon’s book “The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team” — to Nikki Caldwell’s team Thursday before its 70-54 loss Friday to Arkansas-Little Rock.

Caldwell went back and read the book Saturday morning in advance of the team’s second game against Sam Houston State and related all the points Gordon made to her team before its 71-45 victory.

“Having a positive attitude, controlling the controllables,” Caldwell said. “Making sure you’re not a vampire, where you’re sucking energy from your team. There’s energy out there, and it can either be positive or negative.”

“They had a seat on the bus (Saturday).”

Freshman Jenna Deemer paced the Lady Tigers with 16 points, while Raygine Moncrief added 12 points and eight rebounds to balance the attack.

In the absence of suspended guard Danielle Ballard, Deemer asserted herself as a viable go-to scorer behind Moncrief, going 7-of-9 from the field and 2-for-3 from behind the 3-point line.

The first 10 minutes played out much like the Lady Tigers’ last game, with turnovers and missed shots ruling the day, and both teams struggling to find any sort of consistency from the field.

With the game knotted at 20 and two minutes until halftime, Stephanie Amichia triggered a 12-5 run to end the half when she scored through contact and knocked down a free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play.

After two Anne Pedersen free throws and a Bearkat jumper, Deemer took control, burying a 3-pointer followed by a spin move in transition for a layup that gave the Tigers a 30-22 lead.

“That put us on the energy bus,” Deemer said. “Gave us a little motivation, a little tempo, and our defensive stops converted to that.”

Leading 32-25 out of the break, the Lady Tigers went on a 13-0 run to stretch their lead to 17 behind Moncrief’s five points and suffocating trap defenses that forced the Bearkats into 24 turnovers.

“Crushing the corners and rotating,” freshman guard Stephanie Amichia said of the Lady Tigers’ defensive improvements. “I think we got a lot of stops because of awareness. I think that’s what we lacked (Friday). Not knowing where certain people were or not understanding where we should set up.”

Amichia finished with nine points on 4-of-9 shooting but took more pride after the game in another stat line: her six rebounds.

“I love rebounding,” Amichia said. “Regardless of how many I get, I’m going to box someone out and get on the glass because that’s what I love to do.”

Though the season-opening loss still stung, Caldwell said the quick turnaround and bounce-back performance taught her more about her team than she ever thought.

And now firmly on the energy bus, Caldwell’s team hopes it can stay on the ride.

“We cannot go through the season picking and choosing when we are going to bring our energy and enthusiasm,” Caldwell said. “I just challenged them to do that, and that was the big difference between the two games.”