There’s a lot more at stake than revenge when the LSU women’s basketball team plays host to Tennessee Thursday.
The two teams are tied for third place in the SEC standings at 7-3 behind South Carolina and Mississippi State, and LSU wants to keep its home record perfect against conference opposition. The season is winding down in the battle for the four double-byes to the SEC tournament.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” LSU guard Jaelyn Richard-Harris said. “It will come down to who wants it more. We’re coming to protect our house.”
Two weeks ago LSU dropped a competitive 63-58 decision in Tennessee, which was a one possession game in the final minutes. LSU led by as many as seven in the game and trailed by as many as nine. Tigers coach Nikki Fargas is expecting another battle like the last one.
“When you play Tennessee, you’ve got to have a competitors attitude, compete on every possession,” Fargas said. “We have to do a much better job of ball security. We had way too many turnovers.
“We have to have the mentality when we’re playing in the PMAC you don’t let people come in here and get an easy W.”
Easier said than done, especially since LSU won’t have Ayana Mitchell this time. Mitchell put up 24 points and 12 rebounds in the last meeting. The Tigers showed they could win without her, stopping Missouri on Monday and will have to continue to share the load throughout the team to ease the loss of Mitchell.
Junior forward Faustine Aifuwa stepped up with 19 points and 16 rebounds against Missouri. But LSU will need better perimeter play than last time. The team minus Mitchell shot 11 of 45 from the field and defensively, LSU allowed Rennia Davis to score 30 points.
LSU outrebounded Tennessee 45-32 in the first meeting but committed 17 turnovers.
“Our perimeter play has got to be aggressive,” Fargas said. “We have to play going south. We played this windshield wiper offense. Our bigs have to be more physical and hit. We can get good looks by being aggressive with our guard play and our bigs can be more physical by sealing and hitting.”
Fargas said defending Davis, who made 9 of 13 shots, will be a group effort and that she may us Awa Trasi on the 6-feet-2 guard/forward, who creates mismatches. Fargas liked the defensive play of Rakell Spencer and Tiara Young against Missouri star Aijha Blackwell on Monday.
Davis is second in the SEC in scoring with an 18.1 average and sixth in re bounding at 8.3 per game. She had eight rebounds, four steals and was 10 of 10 from the free throw line.
“We’re going to have to defend her by committee,” Fargas said. “It’s going to be several players stepping up and taking the challenge. We have to limit her touches. The last game it was too easy, in the paint, the 3 off the dribble drive. We’ve got to be locked in to scouting report defense.”