LSU junior guard Khayla Pointer didn’t merely step up in Thursday’s key 75-65 victory over Tennessee; she took control.
Pointer scored 24 points and had 10 rebounds with six assists to lead the Tigers past the No. 25 Lady Vols at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Their victory lifted LSU (18-5, 8-3 SEC) into sole possession of third place in the conference. It was LSU’s fourth consecutive victory and fifth against a top 25 team.
Tennessee (17-7, 7-4) lost its third consecutive game and dropped into a tie for fourth with Texas A&M, Arkansas and Kentucky.
In LSU’s second outing without senior leader Ayana Mitchell, Pointer used her driving ability to attack the basket in the second half against the taller Vols. Time after time she came away with a layup or went to the line where she hit 8 of 12 attempts.
“I think we were trying to take advantage of the matchups,” said Pointer, who also had three steals and was fouled nine times. “We wanted to bring the bigs out. It opened up some driving lanes, and I was just trying to make the right play.
“I was trying to play with a lot of confidence and be a poised leader for my team. Kind of trying to run the show.”
Pointer got plenty of support from Awa Trasi, who replaced Mitchell in the starting lineup. Trasi scored a career-high 22 points, hitting a career-best 5 of 10 3-point shots. Freshman Tiara Young came off the bench to get 10 points and three rebounds, her best scoring output in an SEC game.
LSU also out hustled Tennessee on the defensive end. The Vols entered the game with the league’s second-best rebound margin, but LSU won that battle, 41-35.
Defensively, LSU held Tennessee’s leading scorer Rennia Davis to four points in the first half and 19 for the game. Davis averages 18.3 but torched the Tigers for 30 in the teams’ first meeting won 63-58 by Tennessee.
Davis hit 8 of 13 shots and had six rebounds but also had four turnovers coming off sitting out the last game with an illness. The rest of the Lady Vols lineup shot 15 for 44 (34.1%).
The teams battled on near even terms through three quarters, but Pointer got the Tigers revved up in the fourth quarter. She drove to the basket for layups on two consecutive possessions to make the lead 60-54 and start a 13-4 run with 7:22 left.
Trasi added a basket from the baseline, and after Davis hit a 3-pointer, Trasi answered with one of her own. A free throw by Pointer capped the spurt and gave LSU its biggest lead of the night, 71-58 with 1:25 left.
LSU coach Nikki Fargas’ plan was to have Pointer slow the pace down by waiting until the final 15 seconds of the shot clock to attack the defense.
“We wanted to manipulate the clock in our favor,” Fargas said. “We don’t want to quick-shoot the basketball in the first 15 seconds of the shot clock. I wanted to see what the matchup was going to be. We went to our 1-4 flat to bring size away from the basket. It was better for us for dribble-drive, pick-and-pop and rebounding. We were able to get to the paint.”
Pointer is averaging 19 points per game in her past four games. The 24 points and 10 rebounds was her third career double-double.
“She’s been playing great,” Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said. “We knew that going in, that she was going to be aggressive. We just couldn’t guard her. She got to the basket, she got a lot of easy looks and finished it.”