There was a lot to like about the LSU women’s 52-44 victory Sunday against Ole Miss at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, but perimeter shooting wasn’t one.
That’s why coach Nikki Fargas spoke to the Tigers’ shooting woes after a quick compliment to the defense in her postgame remarks. LSU improved to 13-3 overall and 3-1 in Southeastern Conference play against the shorthanded Rebels, the Tigers' best start in three seasons.
But Fargas knows it will be hard to stay up if the shots don’t start falling.
“We did enough defensively to come away with a win,” Fargas said of LSU’s fifth win in six outings. “Our inability to score from the perimeter made this game closer. A lot of credit to Ole Miss for sticking to the game plan and running a pack-line defense, forcing us to take shots from the perimeter.
“Those shots obviously didn’t fall. That’s a challenge for our team right now. It’s going to be the difference whether or not we turn from a good team to a great team.”
LSU shot 36.5% (23 of 63) for the game, including a frigid 3 of 13 in the fourth quarter that allowed the visitors to stay within striking distance instead of being put away. Ole Miss’ second-leading scorer was dismissed from the team last week, and the Rebels had lost their previous two games by a combined 100 points.
Forward Ayana Mitchell was her usual dependable self with 12 points and 14 rebounds despite some early foul trouble. LSU scored 28 points in the paint and out-rebounded the visitors 47-30. But other than Jaelyn Richard-Harris, who made 4 of 8 from the field and matched her season high of nine points, LSU’s outside game struggled after the first quarter.
LSU held Ole Miss to 34.7% shooting and forced 17 turnovers to only eight for the Tigers. After Richard-Harris, the rest of the guards were 9 for 32.
Ole Miss (7-10, 0-4) was led by Deja Cage with 20 points and Dominique Banks with 10.
“As we move on, we have to figure out our perimeter game,” said Mitchell, who had her 34th career double-double and seventh this season. “Teams are packing it inside. We have to continue to work in the gym and stay in the gym until we hit those outside shots.”
LSU started reasonably well, hitting 7 of 16 shots in the first quarter, and led by 11 at the half but only after LSU missed eight of its last nine shots. The lead grew to 15 early in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers couldn’t pull away. Ole Miss never got closer than the final score.
Freshman guard Tiara Young, making her first start since Nov. 17, had nine points, six rebounds and three assists in her longest stint (32 minutes, 27 seconds). Fargas cited her improved defense although she was 4 of 11 from the field.
Leading scorer Khayla Pointer had seven points, seven assists and four rebounds but was 3-of-10 shooting.
“We’ve got to have a balanced attack, players making shots, wide open shots,” Fargas said. “We’re out-rebounding our opponents, taking care of the ball, we had plus 14 more field-goal attempts. It’s a matter of having enough confidence as a scorer, filling your tank before the game, being ready to knock down shots.”
The sooner the better. LSU’s next three games are against ranked opponents, two of them on the road, starting with Thursday’s game at No. 13 Mississippi State.
“It’s a big stretch for us,” Fargas said. “It’s going to test us to see what we’re made of.”