The LSU women’s basketball team took down No. 21 Texas A&M in a hard-fought 63-52 win Sunday afternoon in the Maravich Center.
“It was a good turnaround for us, having dropped a game at Georgia,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said. “We talked about the challenges that we faced against them in hopes that it would help us against A&M, and I felt like it did.”
Guard Khayla Pointer lead the Lady Tigers with 22 points, and forward Ayana Mitchell notched another double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds in the win. Aggies guard Chennedy Carter led the Texas A&M with 20 points.
“(Pointer) is huge,” Fargas said. “She’s a big piece of the puzzle. She came and responded by being aggressive off the bounce. She did a nice job of taking care of the basketball for us. She gives this team a calmness.”
There were 14 lead changes as the Lady Tigers ground out a win. LSU also committed fewer turnovers, with 13 compared to Texas A&M’s 21.
Both teams started aggressively on defense, with the Lady Tigers holding a 14-12 lead after the first quarter. Mitchell took two charges within the first six minutes.
LSU took a 2-0 lead when Mitchell scored in the lane off a triple team. Guards Khayla Pointer and Shanice Norton added mid-range jump shots early to help the Lady Tigers maintain a small lead in the first quarter.
LSU ran into trouble when center Faustine Aifuwa notched her second foul halfway through the first quarter.
Center Yasmine Bidikuindila played 10 minutes off the bench for the Lady Tigers, grabbing two big offensive rebounds late in the game.
After Karli Seay made a jumper to put LSU up 16-13, the Lady Tigers went on a three-minute scoring drought. But the Aggies only made one shot during that span as LSU held a 17-16 lead with 3:30 left in the first half.
LSU made 1 of their last 13 shots from the field in the first half but defense kept them in the game going into halftime. Pointer drove to the basket for a quick layup at the end of the second quarter.
Strong defense from Norton and fellow guard Jaelyn Richard-Harris at the end of the first half prevented a last-second shot from the Aggies. LSU went into halftime with a 21-20 lead.
Both teams scored more in the third quarter than they did in any other quarter, with Texas A&M holding a 21-19 edge in the period. Neither team made a 3-pointer in the first half, going a combined 0 for 14, but they both started the second half by making 3-pointers.
LSU and Texas A&M traded field goals before Aggies guard Chennedy Carter’s flagrant foul gave LSU a 29-25 lead.
“Our mindset was just to keep fighting,” Mitchell said. “Texas A&M is a great team and Chennedy Carter is a great player. We did out job on the defensive end. We outrebounded them and tried to push in transition. Our mindset was just to play hard.”
The lead didn’t last long. LSU went on a two-minute drought, which helped the Aggies take a 30-29 lead with 6:35 left in the third quarter.
Norton hit a long shot near the end of the quarter to tie the game, but a foul on Pointer allowed Carter to hit a free throw and give the Aggies a one-point lead.
LSU came out hot in the fourth quarter.
Fargas said the team as a whole went to a “deeper place” in the fourth quarter in terms of effort and execution.
“When the fourth quarter started, we knew that it was our quarter,” LSU guard Jaelyn Richard-Harris said. “We focused on pushing the ball, transition has always been key for us. We had some big offensive rebounds in the second half. We had some big plays, and we pushed tempo — things were in our favor tonight.”
Norton came up big again with a steal on Texas A&M’s first possession and draining a long jumper at the end of the shot clock to give the Lady Tigers a 42-41 lead.
Pointer was on a roll in the fourth quarter, going 4 for 4 on free throws and 2 for 2 from the field and giving LSU a 51-45 advantage, until she got her fourth foul. LSU missed Pointer’s play-making ability, as Texas A&M came back to take a 52-51 lead with her on the bench.
Once Pointer returned, LSU got a boost. She was immediately fouled upon her return, and she made both free throws and hit a fast-break layup to give LSU a 55-52 lead with 2:48 left.
Texas A&M had five turnovers in the last 3:20, as LSU went on an 12-0 run. Richard-Harris said that Carter fouling out in the final two minutes was like “cutting the head off the snake.”
“Those players wanted it and really went out and got the win,” Fargas said. “We played hard. I told them ‘good things happen to you when you play hard.’ The energy and the effort was there.”