LSU men’s coach Will Wade said at his Tip-Off Luncheon that he watched women’s basketball practice earlier in the week to pick up some defensive tips and strategies — and for good reason.
Coach Nikki Fargas’ Lady Tigers returns the SEC's leading defense, a unit that kept them competitive last season.
In its season opener Tuesday night, LSU coupled that tough defense with a re-energized offense in a 83-49 victory over UNO.
The next challenge is much tougher as the Lady Tigers host No. 12 Florida State at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“Saturday is a big day for Tiger Nation and it’s a huge day for women’s basketball here at LSU,” Fargas said, also referring to LSU's football showdown at Alabama. “Hopefully we can get some fans to come out prior to (the football game), against one of the best teams in the country in Florida State. And doing so is going to take the inside play of Ayana Mitchell and Faustine Aifuwa — who should be and will be one of the best post players to come out this year as a junior.”
The Seminoles, who beat Charleston Southern 88-36 on Tuesday, return their entire roster that lost to the Lady Tigers 58-45 last season. Florida State is led by a trio of seniors, guards Nicki Ekhomu and Nausia Woolfolk and forward Kiah Gillespie, who all averaged more than 13 points per game last season.
Fargas said she knows this year’s Lady Tigers can't employ the same game plan as last year and still win. The Seminoles, she said, are better than last year and picked to finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“We return the No. 1 defense in the league, and that’s great but we have to go out and put points on the board,” Fargas said. “We’re intentional in our recruiting efforts and we’ve done just that. We’re going to stop people, but we’re also going to be unstoppable.”
Fargas added five-star freshman Tiara Young to a lineup ripe with talent.
Senior forward Ayana Michell averaged a double-double during her junior season and scored her 1,000th point in LSU’s season opener.
Fargas calls Mitchell a “machine” because she does everything the coaching staff asks of her, from getting on the boards and keeping balls alive to little things like taking charges.
Junior center Aifuwa averaged 7.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and guard Khayla Pointer was solid at the point position. Young, who scored 19 points in her debut against UNO, adds to the Lady Tigers attack.
“I’ve got one of the best freshmen, I think, in the country,” Fargas said of Pointer. “She’s somebody that’s really, really special for our team.”