LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Fargas is not ignorant to the fact that the Women’s Final Four is 80 miles down the road in New Orleans.
The final goal for the Lady Tigers is to be there in March, and they took one more step in that direction this week.
After wins over No. 15 Michigan State and Memphis at the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas, the Lady Tigers extended their win streak to six games and eared a No. 25 ranking in this week’s AP Top 25 — the first time the team has been ranked since the 2017-18 season.
Fargas is happy with the recognition but knows that what really matters is the ranking at the end of the season. She emphasized that the number in front of the team’s name doesn’t eliminate the season-long goals.
“I think that’s the most important part is that we want to make sure that they know what our destination is,” Fargas said. “We appreciate the committee recognizing the body of work that this team has done thus far, and there is still more work to come.
“We still have to go our and roll our sleeves up, because we are LSU and there’s still going to be a target on your back. To have that recognition is great, but we’re got to be recognized later. I want us recognized at March Madness and down in New Orleans (at the Final Four). That’s me as the coach.”
To achieve that goal, LSU must continue to perform at a high level before SEC play. The non-conference slate continues with in-state matchup against Nicholls State (2-5).
The Colonels are on a two-game losing streak, but Fargas doesn’t want that to influence how the Lady Tigers play against them, especially because it is LSU’s annual field-trip game.
“If we’re not pumped up with 5,000 kids coming to our game, that’s a problem,” Fargas said. “It’s about to be a great environment. Our team is focused and we don’t not take anybody seriously. We’re going to do our scouting report. We’re doing everything that we did for Michigan State. It’s no different for Nicholls State. It’s still the same, the competition is still there and it’s about LSU.”
Fargas said a huge reason for the Lady Tigers’ success during this streak has been the bench play. She has challenged the reserve players throughout the season to contribute more, and they did just that in the Junkanoo Jam with 24 points against Michigan State and 41 against Memphis.
She emphasized that the bench play is vital to the Lady Tigers playing a strong 40-minute game.
“The teams in the past that have gone far in the tournament, they’ve had bench play. We’re trying to get ours ready,” Fargas said. “They were able to play against a Michigan State team that’s a veteran squad, that’s got a lot of talent, but the fight of the Lady Tigers was pretty impressive.”
More noticeable the finishing abilities of the three leaders — forward Ayana Mitchell, center Faustine Aifuwa and point guard Khayla Pointer. The three have come into their roles on the team and begun executing to the ability that Fargas expects of them.
Fargas thinks the win against Michigan State can be a jumping point for the rest of the season, led by those three.
“It takes a lot of confidence and a lot of guts and grit to say ‘Hey, give me the ball’ late in the game,” Fargas said. “Our late game has gotten so much better through the experience that they went through last year. There were several games last year that could’ve went either way, and we didn’t finish them well. I think this team has taken the time in the offseason to work on their craft and get better in certain areas.”