Coming off a 12-day final exams break and backed by 5,000 elementary pupils, the LSU women’s basketball team schooled McNeese State from start to finish in an 86-36 victory on Tuesday at the Maravich Assembly Center.
The Lady Tigers (5-2) spread the ball around with five players in double figures, the bench provided 32 points and 11 rebounds and every player had at least one basket. They also showed resolve in not sitting on a 20-point halftime lead with an energetic third quarter that included a 28-0 run for a 66-38 lead.
The announced crowd of 6,528 was bolstered by the Louisiana schoolchildren who attended as part of the Field Trip Day promotion for the 11 a.m. tipoff.
LSU started the game with a basket off the opening tip by Jaelyn Richard-Harris and a steal off the press on McNeese’s first possession. Coach Nikki Fargas said there was a lot to feel good about since the 68-61 home loss to Kansas Nov. 29.
“Everybody on the team competed today,” Fargas said. “It was great to go deep in our roster and allow everybody to get quality minutes.
“We talked about how we can be better than the Kansas game. I thought we did a decent job trying to take away their players that like to shoot the (3-pointer). We were able to connect on five of those ourselves. This group has a ways to go but I feel we are on the right track.”
Ayana Mitchell led the way with 14 points. Khayla Pointer and Faustine Aifuwa each had their first career double-double. Pointer had career highs with 12 assists and 12 points on six-of-nine shooting. Aifuwa took advantage of McNeese concentrating on Mitchell to get 10 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
“We’ve been enforcing the extra pass during the time off," Pointer said. “We’re very unselfish, we don’t care who scores. It’s attacking the basket, making the extra pass, knocking down the shot.
Said Aifuwa: “I had to stay aggressive for four quarters. My teammates rely on me and I have to match their intensity. Anything to help my team out. I knew I had a height advantage. It was going up strong and staying aggressive.”
Mitchell led LSU with 14 points while Richard-Harris and Mercedes Brooks had 12 each. Brooks gave LSU’s outside a game a lift by hitting three of four 3-point shots. LSU shot 50 percent from the field (34 of 68), seven points better than their season average.
LSU also had four players — Pointer, Richard Harris, Yasmine Bidikuindila and Karli Seay — with four steals each, and a team total of 25. It was the biggest margin of victory for LSU since a 93-40 victory against Alabama State in 2016.
McNeese (0-8) was no match for LSU’s full-court press and struggled throughout with as many turnovers (36) as points. Regan Bolton led McNeese with 11 points.
“Our defensive intensity, we switched up the press to trap more, that gave us momentum,” Vargas said. “We came up with steals that turned into layups. We didn’t play even. Our bench was valuable in pushing that lead ahead.”