LSU’s Khayla Pointer received a pregame trophy ball Sunday for scoring her 1,000th career point and celebrated by matching her season high with 25 points against Tennessee.
But with the game on the line, the Lady Vols managed to deny her the ball and held on for a 64-63 victory at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Lady Tigers guard Tiara Young drove on the left side of the Tennessee defense but couldn’t get her shot to fall with 1 second left, and Jordan Horston rebounded the miss to seal LSU’s second consecutive loss.
“I’m a little upset about the last play,” said Pointer, who tormented Tennessee with her repeated drives to the basket. “We didn’t get the shot we wanted. We didn’t know we hadn’t advanced the ball, so in the timeout we set up a play for half court. Tiara went in there to try and get the best look or draw a foul and it just didn’t go our way.
“That was a great look for her we trust her to take the last shot. We’d go to her again in a situation like that.”
LSU (4-6, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) overcame the distinct height deficit with a swarming defense that produced 26 points off Tennessee turnovers 19 turnovers to put out one of their best offensive performances of the season. But the Lady Vols used their height — and foul trouble by LSU’s best post player, Faustine Aifuwa — to dominate the rebounding, 39-25.
“We did enough offensively to win the game, but we blew a lot of layups,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said. “Our shot selection was better and we got to the rim. But when Faustine goes out for a half it changes the complexion of the game. we don’t have another 6-5 kid to take up that space.”
Aifuwa picked up her second foul 4:49 into the game and sat out the remainder of the first half while playing only 21 minutes.
Pointer recorded five assists, three steals and three rebounds. She was fouled eight times but converted only 4 of 10 free-throw attempts. The improving Young had 11 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The game was closely contested throughout with 10 ties and eight lead changes. Tennessee led the whole fourth quarter, but the biggest lead for either team was six points.
LSU appeared destined to win when Tennessee missed four free throws and a point-blank layup on a single possession beginning with 22.8 seconds left. Karli Seay rebounded the miss by Rae Burrell and LSU called timeout with 13.8 seconds left.
But Tennessee denied the Pointer ball and Young finally got it with seven seconds left. She tried to drive the left side, but her shot under the basket through two defenders while falling to the floor never had a chance.
Seay, making her second start of the season, had six points, six rebounds and six steals.
Tennessee was led by Rae Burrell with 18 points, Tamari Key with 12 and Hoston with 11. Rennia Davis was held to eight points but led the visitors with nine rebounds. Tennessee used its rebounding edge to get 19 second-chance points to eight for LSU.
“Their style is unique,” Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said. “It’s a grind for the opposing teams. We felt if we could come away with a one-point team we’d walk away happy. We could have finished better with those free throws and not have had to worry about that last possession. Pointer does an unbelievable job handling the ball and creating opportunities for herself and her team.”