A rapid-fire series of games during the non-conference portion of LSU’s schedule was designed to get the Lady Tigers ready for postseason play.
Of course, the turnaround from a 68-65 win Friday night at Florida in LSU’s Southeastern Conference opener to Sunday’s home game against No. 1-ranked South Carolina could prove to be as daunting as anything the Lady Tigers could face in March.
Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. between LSU (7-6) and South Carolina (13-0, 1-0 SEC).
The game will be televised on ESPN2 and can be heard on WBRP-FM (107.3) and in the Geaux Zone atLSUSports.net.
Despite the tough task ahead, there is reason for encouragement in LSU’s recent play.
The Lady Tigers have won three of their last four, their only loss at Miami (Florida) in the final of the Hurricanes’ own Miami Holiday Tournament. LSU fell behind 16 points at halftime and got back within five before its comeback fell short, 76-71.
With no classes back home because of the holiday break, LSU celebrated the new year in Florida.
It looked like the Lady Tigers would suffer the same old defeat, turning the ball over on their first seven possessions and falling behind the Lady Gators 14-0 to open the game.
But LSU rallied for a 30-30 halftime tie and controlled much of the second half, thanks mainly to the play of DaShawn Harden.
The senior guard poured in a career high 23 points, 20 of them in the final 20 minutes that included 5 of 6 made free throws in the final 1:17.
“We held tough,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “We’re still a team that is trying to find our identity, and I thought we gave a much better defensive effort.”
Anne Pedersen also scored a career-high 14 points on 6 of 6 field-goal shooting, compensating for an eight-point effort from Raigyne Moncrief before she fouled out late.
Harden upped her team-leading season average to 12.2 points per game. Moncrief is second with 10.5 points per game.
LSU is still expected to be without suspended junior guard Danielle Ballard, who is allowed to practice with the team, but has yet to play this season.
LSU’s available players will all need to be on their game Sunday if LSU is to upset the top-ranked Gamecocks.
South Carolina went 29-5 last season en route to its first SEC regular-season championship, and after losing only two letter winners the Gamecocks were a big favorite in the preseason polls to repeat.
So far, South Carolina has shown no reason to doubt that choice.
The Gamecocks’ record includes a 51-50 win on Dec. 7 at No. 9 Duke and a 77-58 win over Auburn at home Friday in the SEC opener for both schools.
Preseason SEC player of the year Tiffany Mitchell, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, leads South Carolina with 14.2 points pre game.
A’ja Wilson, a 6-5 freshman ranked by ESPN as the nation’s No. 1 recruit, averages 14.0 points and 6.8 rebounds. Alaina Coats, a 6-4 sophomore center, averages 11.4 points and a team-best 9.2 rebounds per game.
LSU holds a commanding 22-6 lead in the series between the schools, but South Carolina has won two straight. A third straight win over LSU would give the Gamecocks a school-record 14-game winning streak to start the season.
The South Carolina game marks LSU’s annual “Gold Game,” and the school is hoping to boost attendance with a special free ticket promotion compliments of The Advocate.
Fans may go to the women’s basketball page at LSUSports.net and download a voucher for a free ticket. That voucher must them be presented at the PMAC box office, which opens at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.