The fourth playing date of the Southeastern Conference schedule is an anxiety-inducing point to be faced with a must-win game, but that is precisely the kind of drama the LSU Lady Tigers have fashioned for themselves.
An 0-2 SEC road trip leaves LSU (10-6, 1-2 SEC) desperate to hold serve in Sunday’s 2 p.m. game against Mississippi State (8-8, 0-3) at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Considering State’s early struggles under first-year coach Vic Schaefer and the home-court advantage, LSU would appear to have the winning elements stacked in its favor.
It must if the Lady Tigers are able to revive their already bubble-like NCAA tournament hopes.
“There is definitely a sense of urgency for us,” coach Nikki Caldwell said.
“I think our team at home has done what we need to do to win. We’ve just not been as good on the road. But it starts with us in practice, going back to our fundamentals that say we can win not only at home but on the road.”
Icy early shooting put LSU in a 7-0 hole it couldn’t climb out of in a 77-72 loss at Florida last Sunday. The offense didn’t thaw at Arkansas on Thursday, as a 14-0 deficit was material to a 63-54 defeat.
Center Theresa Plaisance, the SEC’s leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, poured in 17 and 22 points, respectively, in those two contests, but the lack off offense from guards Adrienne Webb and Jeanne Kenney in the Arkansas game was particularly troubling.
Neither scored on combined 0-for-11 shooting, the kind of game that has Webb reconsidering her offensive approach.
“It’s really frustrating when you don’t have your offense going,” said Webb, who is still averaging 12.6 points per game. “You have to let the offense come to you instead of forcing it.”
Kenney injured her left shoulder in practice Friday. She sat out Saturday’s practice session and is questionable for the State game.
“We’re just going to be very cautious with her, because we’ve only got 10 on the roster,” Caldwell said.
Guard Danielle Ballard continues to lead SEC freshmen in scoring with 14.9 points per game. Ballard earned her third SEC Freshman of the Week honor Monday.
Sophomores Kendra Grant and Martha Alwal lead the Bulldogs in scoring. Grant, a 5-foot-11 guard, averages 13.1 points per game. Alwall, a 6-4 center, averages 11.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, while her 2.3 blocks ranks only behind Plaisance (3.1).
Sunday’s games mark the start of the second annual “We Back Pat Week” across the SEC. The initiative is focused on bringing awareness and recognition to the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund and its fight against Alzheimer’s disease. … LSU has dominated the series with Mississippi State, leading 43-6 overall (2-0 under Caldwell) and 21-1 in games at the PMAC. State’s only win in Baton Rouge was in January 2009. … The game will be televised on CST and broadcast locally on 107.3 FM. … LSU returns to the road Thursday at South Carolina, then hosts Vanderbilt at 2 p.m. next Sunday.