LSU will be without leading rebounder and defensive ace Autumn Newby for the foreseeable future, but the news isn’t all bad after she left Thursday’s overtime victory against Missouri with a left leg injury in the third quarter.
Medical personnel at first feared a torn Achilles tendon but an MRI taken Friday showed only a ruptured plantaris, which is not a season-ending injury nor will it require surgery.
“We are all relieved that Autumn did not have a torn Achilles (tendon),” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. “She will be back as soon as her pain subsides.
“It didn’t look good coming off the floor. Actually, the trainer said her evaluation looked promising.”
Newby, who is averaging a team-best 7.7 rebounds and usually guards the opponents’ best offensive post player, had four points and 12 rebounds against Missouri when she stopped running and walked gingerly upcourt. She was helped to the sidelines and replaced by Awa Trasi.
Missouri quickly cut into a 10-point LSU lead with nine unanswered points and took its first lead of the game with 2:14 remaining. LSU held on and won in overtime on Khayla Pointer’s layup with 5.7 seconds left and a blocked shot at the buzzer by Alexis Morris.
“We lost our composure when she went down,” Mulkey said. “She already had 12 rebounds and might have broken a career high the way she was going.”
Newby, a graduate transfer from Vanderbilt, is averaging 5.7 points and would have gone against her former team Sunday without the injury.
Mulkey deeply believes man-to-man defense is the way to go but will reluctantly resort to zones in an emergency. She often refers to using a zone when she was at Baylor against LSU to erase a 15-point deficit and win a 68-57 victory at the 2005 Final Four because her players couldn’t guard LSU man-to-man.
Seconds after Newby went out, Faustine Aifuwa drew her third and fourth fouls — the second a technical for her reaction to the first — pushing Mulkey toward a zone. After trying Trasi, she gambled and put Aifuwa back into the game and switched to the 3-2 zone. It paid off as Aifuwa never drew her fifth foul.
“I just decided we're going to go big and go with the three perimeter players that have won this many games for us this year and let the chips fall where they may. Faustine did a tremendous job of staying in the game.”
Pointer continues to move up the career statistics chart and though getting to the top of any one of them is out of her reach, she is perhaps two games away from an LSU women’s basketball first. With 13 rebounds she can become the first Tiger to reach at least 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists.
Pointer is 5-foot-7 but averages 6.7 rebounds per game, second to Newby.
With 1,634 points, Pointer is 15 away from moving into the top 10 among LSU's all-time scorers. Marie Ferdinand (1997-01) is No. 10 with 1,648. Pointer has 527 assists, No. 3 all time and 43 behind No. 2 Pokey Chatman.
Bracketology update plus
ESPN bracketologist Charlie Crème has LSU as a No. 3 seed and that means the Tigers would play host to first and second round NCAA tournament games for the first time since 2014. LSU beat Georgia Tech and West Virginia in Baton Rouge but lost to Louisville in the programs’ last Sweet 16 appearance.
The Tigers also stayed at No. 21 in the RealtimeRPI.com rankings with a strength of schedule at No. 44. The NCAA Net rankings dropped LSU from 15 to 17 in the latest iteration. LSU is the third-highest ranked Southeastern Conference team after No. 1 South Carolina and No. 7 Tennessee.
Big Mac nominees
Three Tiger signees are among 760 boys and girls nationwide who have been nominated for spots in the McDonald’s All America Games scheduled for March 29 in DePaul’s Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
Guard Flaujae Johnson of Marietta, Georgia; forward Sa’Myah Smith of DeSoto, Texas; and guard/forward Alisa Williams of Little Elm, Texas, are eligible to be chosen for the girls’ game. The 45th annual event returns after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cherry’s nine assists against Missouri were a career high ... Freshman forward Amani Bartlett saw her first action in an SEC game against Auburn last Sunday and came up with one point, one assist, three rebounds and four blocked shots. Three of the blocked shots came on one Auburn possession ... Freshman F Ajae Petty was not available for the Missouri game because of a stress reaction in her foot and could be out as much as two weeks.