The basketball coaching axiom that good shooting can cover up a lot of bad play elsewhere has a flip side. Bad shooting can cost a team when it plays well in other areas.
LSU’s women fell victim to the latter in a loss to No. 22 Texas A&M Thursday that makes the road toward an NCAA tournament berth that much more difficult as the Lady Tigers prep for a visit to last-place Vanderbilt at 5 p.m. Sunday.
LSU led A&M by 6 at the half, outrebounded the home team 44-35 and had a season-low eight turnovers. But they shot just 34.4 percent (24 of 69) and were especially cold down the stretch when the game was easily within reach. LSU hit only 4 of 16 shots in the last 10 minutes and scored four points in the final 5:45.
“I felt we missed our opportunities to separate the score in the first half,” coach Nikki Fargas said. “We missed gimmies in the paint, layups and put-backs. Statistically we beat them in every category; we just struggled to score in the paint. That had been a positive for us.
“The game was in reach even shooting as poorly as we did and the last four minutes we really struggled to score. We were getting in the paint and 7-8-feet jump shots and couldn’t knock them down.”
Point guard Khayla Pointer was a bright spot, hitting 9 of 16 shots for 21 points and adding seven rebounds and five assists. Starters Shanice Norton, Ayana Mitchell and Faustine Aifuwa combined to go 12 for 42. Mitchell is a 54.1 percent shooter for the season.
LSU missed injured starter Rakell Spencer, who had been player well and earned her first three career starts before tearing an ACL against Arkansas, ending her season. Karli Seay started in her place in College Station, and Jaelyn Richard-Harris is also in line for play in her spot.
“She was a defensive spark for us and she’s a great rebounder,” Fargas said of Spencer. “But she also was putting points on the board. We’ve got to figure out a way to get that back.”
A victory against the Aggies would have improved post season hopes but instead it dropped the Lady Tigers to 14-9 overall and 5-6 in conference play, in a four-way tie for seventh. After Vanderbilt comes Florida, one spot ahead of the Lady Commodores in the standings at 2-9, followed road trips to conference powerhouses Kentucky and Mississippi State with the finale at home against Auburn.
LSU coach Nikki Fargas said Vanderbilt (6-18, 1-10 in SEC play) is not to be overlooked with a 5-6 home record and an average of 80.3 points per game.
“Vanderbilt is playing much better and they play really well at home,” she said. “Their percentages and scoring are better. Their record is not an indicator of how competitive they are.”
Vanderbilt’s leading scorer is 6-foot-5 post player Mariel Fasoula, who is scoring 16.2 points per game and grabbing 7.5 rebounds. Guard Lealea Carter is averaging 12.4 points per game in league games, and Cierra Walker is a dangerous 3-point shooter, third in the SEC at 43.6 percent (24 of 55) in conference games.
“Lealea Carter typically plays well against us,” Fargas said. “We have to be locked in on her tendencies. We have to get our running game going, make sure be we are pushing tempo and being aggressive to the rim. We have to be aggressive but be smart with the ball. If we can do that we’ll put some points on the board.”