The LSU women’s basketball team returns to the PMAC Thursday as it looks to notch its third win in a row in another in-state matchup against Southeastern Louisiana.
The Lady Tigers (7-3) are looking to continue be balanced attack on offense and hit their stride as conference play nears.
“We want our girls to enjoy their break, but we want them to come back with the business that we have to attend to,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said.
LSU forward Ayana Mitchell started the 2018-19 season with five straight double-doubles. She hasn’t recorded another one since the Lady Tigers fell to Kansas on Nov. 29, but that’s not a bad thing for LSU.
As various players have stepped up around Mitchell, she hasn’t been required to carry as much of the load for the team.
Mitchell still averages 13.7 points per game on 60 percent field goal shooting and 10.8 rebounds per game, but the guard play around her has been steadily improving as LSU advances through the season.
“It’s important for (Mitchell) to still get the touches and still establish herself as the go-to, but to have a balanced attack with Shanice Norton, Khayla Pointer and Jaelyn Richard-Harris contributing, as your guard play, that makes life a little bit easier for them,” Fargas said.
Pointer has started every game this season, averaging 12.7 points per game and 4.9 assists. Guard Jaelyn Richard-Harris has found her way into the starting lineup, mostly because of her range along the perimeter. Richard-Harris leads LSU in three-point attempts, shooting 11-for-29 from 3point territory.
Fargas credited the diversity on scoring, especially by the guards, for the Lady Tigers win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Dec. 20. Fargas said LSU does need to make more shots under the basket to make a difference against tougher opponents.
“The balanced attack, to have five kids scoring in double figures — that was huge,” Fargas said. “And Jaelyn Richard-Harris really opened it up with the three-ball. That’s momentum for us.”
Fargas has emphasized the need for more bench production, especially as LSU schedule gets tougher.
Guards Jailin Cherry and Mercedes Brooks have recently come off the bench and spread the court for the Lady Tigers. Cherry has the ability to play any guard position, while Brooks' development along the perimeter will extend LSU’s range as a whole.
Fargas stressed Cherry's potential as someone who can handle the ball and shoot from the outside.
“I think everybody knows how hard Cherry has worked and what she’s capable of doing,” Fargas said. “She’s been in a slight slump and for her to come back (against Louisiana-Lafayette) and establish herself, the team knows that was important for us and her own personal confidence.”
The Lady Tigers defense will be challenged when they face Southeastern. The Lions (5-5) are led by guard Celica Sterling with 14.9 points per game and forward Caitlyn Williams 6.7 rebounds per game.
LSU has one of the best scoring defenses in the nation, limiting opponents to 51.4 points per game, lining up with Fargas’ goal of keeping opponents under 55 points.
“Our defensive intensity picked up (against Louisiana-Lafayette),” Fargas said. “We were able to convert off of the turnovers, but I don’t like the fact that we turned the ball over quite a bit.”