BATON ROUGE -- The LSU women's basketball team overcame an 11-point deficit midway through the second-half with a 14-2 run as the Lady Tigers claimed their fourth consecutive victory with an 82-75 come-from-behind win over McNeese State on Friday afternoon in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
LSU (8-3) tied a school record with 34 made free throws, equaling the mark that the Lady Tigers made in an upset of top-seeded Kentucky in last year's Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinal on March 3. LSU attempted 47 free throws for the game, representing the second-most attempts in school history and the most since a school-record 50 on Feb. 5, 1996.
The Cowgirls (4-5) dropped their third consecutive contest, but nearly escaped with a victory on Friday after building a 56-45 advantage with 10:41 remaining in regulation. McNeese buried six threes and out-rebounded LSU, 49-44, including 28 boards on the offensive end.
"I thought in the second half we did a much better job at establishing paint points," said LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell. "Our guards did a much better job of trying to penetrate and get lay-ups. Besides making free throws, the next thing you need to make are lay-ups. When we started doing that, our offense started clicking."
LSU's Theresa Plaisance, the SEC's leading scorer, was held to five points in the first half before erupting for 16 in the second stanza while using her size to get to the free throw line. Plaisance buried a career-best 13-of-19 from the free throw line to finish with 21 points, while grabbing 14 rebounds for her third double-double of the season.
Plaisance's 13 makes tied for third-most in LSU history, while her 19 attempts also tied for third-most in school single-game annals. She added four blocks on the day.
"Theresa Plaisance rushed a little bit in the first half," said Caldwell. "Her teammates did a much better job of getting her the basketball on the reversal. She also nailed her free throws. She has been big for us on the boards. She has also been a solid and consistent player."
Freshman Danielle Ballard notched 21 points for the second consecutive game, while making 9-of-10 from the free throw line to go along with four steals. Adrienne Webb scored 16 points, while Bianca Lutley had some clutch baskets late in an 11-point game.
LSU trailed 39-32 at halftime to the defending Southland Conference champions from Lake Charles. McNeese's perimeter presence forced LSU to run five guards in man-to-man defense during the second half. The Lady Tigers eventually used their quickness and size to get back into the game.
Facing its largest deficit of the contest, Webb fired in a short jumper, while Ballard picked off a pass and found Coco Baker for a lay-up to cut the deficit to 56-51 with 9:43 remaining. Plaisance made her way back into the game and was much more aggressive on the offensive end.
She contributed six unanswered points as LSU turned a three-point deficit into a 65-62 lead with 4:26 to play. Jeanne Kenney found Plaisance for a lay-up that made it a one-point game and she followed with four consecutive free throws as the Lady Tigers continued to work inside.
McNeese's duo of Ashlyn and Caitlyn Baggett refused to go away. Caitlyn's two free throws with 2:49 remaining sliced the LSU lead to four. It became a one-possession game with 0:47 left following Ashlyn's long-range three.
However, Ballard and Plaisance sealed the game at the line for LSU with their physical play. The two combined for six makes at the line in the final 44 seconds as the Lady Tigers survived.
Ashlyn Baggett and Alaina Verdin finished with 15 points apiece to lead the Cowgirls.
LSU closed a six-game homestand and will break for the Christmas holiday. The Lady Tigers return to practice on the evening of Dec. 26 before traveling to Fort Myers, Fla., on Dec. 27 in preparation for a Dec. 28 contest at Florida Gulf Coast. Tipoff is 6 p.m. CT and it will be carried on the LSU Sports Radio Network.
LSU HEAD COACH NIKKI CALDWELL
On the team struggling offensively early ..
"I wish I could chalk it up as a 2 o'clock game. I thought in the second half we did a much better job at establishing paint points. Our guards did a much better job of trying to penetrate and get lay-ups. Besides making free throws, the next thing you need to make are lay-ups. When we started doing that, our offense started clicking. At the half, I told the team I did not want any jump shots being made outside of the paint, and they did a very good job with that."
On the development of the team...
"I always see room for growth. We just recently got a 10-man roster, and we are still trying to find our way. We are trying to find starters. We have tweaked that a little bit. It also depends on what team we are playing. Tonight, we had to go for a smaller line-up to match up with McNeese because they were very good from the perimeter game and off of the bounce. We had to adjust. We have that capability."
On the Importance of Maintaining a Winning Streak ...
"It is important to stack as many wins as you can. It is going to be a battle in the SEC. There is only going to be a certain number of teams that are going to be in the NCAA tournament, and our goal is to be one of those names called. Every win is critical to the overall success of this program."
On Forward Theresa Plaisance's Performance ...
"I thought Theresa Plaisance rushed a little bit more in the first half. Her teammates did a much better job of getting her the basketball on the reversal. She also nailed her free throws. She has been big for us on the boards. She has also been a solid and consistent player."
On Center Bianca Lutley ...
"Bianca is one of those players who is so talented that we can play her one through five (positions)."
On Guards Adrienne Webb and Danielle Ballard ...
"Adrienne Webb and Danielle Ballard were key. They are our two leading guards as far as scoring. They score in different ways. Adrienne Webb scores in transition or off of a kick. Danielle Ballard is really crafty. She is somebody that comes up with those lay-ups when you need them. She did a good job at settling our team when we needed it."
FORWARD THERESA PLAISANCE
On the game turning around for LSU...
"At that point in the game, we were struggling defensively and offensively. The game plan was to get the ball inside, but I wasn't finishing like I should have been. Coach just told me to take a deep breath and concentrate, and I did just that. Danielle (Ballard) also did a great job of swinging that motivation. I'm just really proud of our team and they did a great job tonight."
On frustrations from missing shots...
"It was frustrating but McNeese did a great job of playing defense on me, they were also doubling so we had an open man in the corner. Like I said, it was frustrating to start out with but I eventually picked it up a bit and got my composure and started playing better."
GUARD JEANNE KENNEY
On what the key was for coming out on top...
"It's all about defensive stops. You have to get multiple defensive stops to finish out on top. It's the only way to come back. I thought, momentum wise, (Adrienne) Webb getting that offensive foul in the very first play was such a huge swing. Even though we didn't get to that point in time to take the lead, it was such a huge swing because we put one of their best players in major foul trouble. We just kept going; yes, there will be screw ups, but you just have to keep going."
On the point at which LSU thought to keep drawing fouls...
"For me, coach said we needed to get this lead down by either tying or leading by the four minute segment. We answered that challenge because we played together, we made free throws, we got paint points and it's all about being coachable."
McNeese State Head Coach Brooks Donald-Williams
"Obviously we are proud of our kids, I thought they played a great game. I felt like we competed until the end and we are certainly proud of that. We've come a long way this fall; we have a lot of new kids on the team and a lot of inexperienced players. I'm just excited about the growth that we've had."
Comparing it to last year's game...
"We've come a long way and we've had some tough road games this fall and some of our young one's have had to step up. I thought today was the best toughness that we've seen so far and they were certainly resilient. It was such a different game than last year, and I thought we played timid at home and our shots didn't fall last season at home against LSU. I thought tonight we just came out on fire. I saw the look in the locker room, and I had a feeling that's how'd they come out. I'm just really proud of them. I thought everyone really contributed, even our bench and the kids who don't play.
On Jalyn Johnson...
"I thought she really stepped up big and put the ball on her hip and took control. I thought even through some LSU runs she played like a veteran. Defensively, Jalyn has struggled, but she stepped up too.
On limiting Theresa Plaisance...
"Theresa is a good player and we all recruited her. Our goal going in was to make it as difficult as possible to catch it. I thought our post did a tremendous job and it was really a team effort by committee. I think every kid that went in did a tremendous job and did something different and made it as difficult as they could to catch it. She scored a lot from the line because we were being so physical with her but the first half we did a tremendous job on her."
Guard Ashlyn Baggett
On the loss...
"It's a tough loss because we did control most of the game. There were just unlucky plays and our defense just broke down. They are a good team and there's a reason they are winning. There was nothing more we could have done and we left it all on the court."