The Women’s Bouncy Ball team faced LSU for the third time this season on Friday afternoon. The two teams had split the first two contests, both teams winning at home. Mississippi State had already beaten Kentucky in the first quarterfinal and awaited the winner.
The game started off intense but sloppy. Khaalia Hillsman got the tip, but LSU’s Ayana Mitchell intercepted the ball but missed the layup. LSU would score first but the lead would change hands 9 times in the first quarter. Carter was generally playing a good game with some mistakes. She scored 4 but more importantly was sharing the ball. There was an especially nice assist to Khaalia that had the SECN announcers ooohing,
and she did a nice job finding Danni for a transition 3 pointer. But she turned it over 3 times in the first quarter. 9 fouls were called in the opening period, with the biggest being when Anriel Howard, who was already having trouble finding her usual game, picked up her second with 40 seconds left in the first. The quarter ended on turnovers by each team leaving the score 22-21 Ags when Jaelyn Richard-Harris couldn’t convert Carter’s turnover into points.
Kayla Wells would normally be the sub for Howard, but she was in sweats due to concussion protocol after hitting her head on the floor late in the Arkansas game. Jada Walton came in late in the first quarter for Anriel and stayed in as the second period began. The second started similar to the first: neither team could open a gap on the other. Both teams struggled to hang on to the ball. There was another highlight reel assist from Carter to Jada Walton early in the quarter.
After Walton committed a foul, Blair put Lulu McKinney in, presumably to try to get more offense and to settle the team down with a senior. But LSU took advantage of a mismatch where Lulu was simply overwhelmed trying to box out Ayana Mitchell, who put LSU up 3. On the next possession Carter made a terrible cross court pass that was picked off by Mitchell. Carter sometimes holds the ball up with one hand and tries to pass it like a QB reading a pattern. But it’s often telegraphed when she does that. Raigyne Louis converted the turnover to a jumper to give LSU a 5 point lead at 33-28. To show that mistakes weren’t limited to freshmen, Lulu tried to force a bounce pass in to a double-teamed Khaalia in the block. LSU didn’t convert that one.
But after a miss by Danni, Carter picked up her second foul and had to join Howard on the bench with 4:29 left in the first half. The Ags would stay stuck at 28 while LSU stretched the lead to 37-28. Timeout Ags. Blair had already put Anriel in with 2 fouls with 2:24 to go. Now, he rolled the dice and put Carter back in with 2 fouls and 1:56 to go. In Baton Rouge this had bitten the Ags when Carter picked up her third. This time it worked. With the starters back in, Jasmine Lumpkin broke the scoring drought by driving the left side for a layup. Danni and Anriel added buckets around a jumper by Khayla Pointer.
Halftime score 34-39 LSU.
The Ags had turned it over 10 times in the half. LSU had the edge in rebounding (17-16) and FG% (45.7% to 42.9%). Blair would say later that the Ags were lucky to only be down 5. Blair would also praise his team for taking coaching and tough love during the intermission.
Whatever was said at halftime (Coach Blair also credited Lulu for her locker room leadership), the Ags came out and hit LSU with a 10-0 run. Chloe Jackson got LSU on the second half box score with 7:17 to go in the 3rd. The Ags would go up by 7 with 5:42 left in the quarter on a 3 by Danni. Later, Williams would do this:
The lead would go to 9 with 3 minutes left when Lumpkin ht a jumper. But LSU wasn’t done. The Tigers ended the quarter with a 7-0 run of their own. And during the 3rd Anriel would pick up 2 more fouls and Carter would get her 3rd.
The Ags took a 56-54 lead into the final quarter. Walton started the quarter in place of Howard. LSU would tie the game on a second chance tip in by MItchell. Carter answered with a layup but committed her 4th foul on the other end as Mitchell got a 3 point play and the lead. Blair would leave Carter in and brought Howard back with 4:57 to go. With 3:55 to go Mitchell sprinted out to try to pick off an inbounds pass from Carter to Williams. Mitchell picked up her 4th foul but Danni was called for an unsportsmanlike for hitting Mitchell in the face as both were going after the loose ball. LSU got 2 FTs, the lead and the ball, but couldn’t convert. After Carter made a great save on a loose ball, Hillsman regained the lead with a hoop and a FT. Up to that point neither team could open more than a 2 point lead. Carter finally opened a 2 score gap by coming off screens by Howard and Lumpkin and hitting from the top of the key with 1:40 left to make it 69-65. Mitchell cut it to 2 with a putback on the following possession after Hillsman went out to help on Jackson. Blair called timeout with 1:12 left to set the offense. After the timeout, Raigyne Louis fouled Carter trying to keep her from turning the corner on a drive. 2 FTs made it a 4 point lead again. Timeout LSU.
After the timeout, LSU took some ill-advised shots trying to cut the lead. First, Jackson took a rushed off balance 3 pointer. Carter rebounded and was fouled. 2 FTs made it a 6 point lead. Then Mitchell, who had not hit one all season, took a 3 pointer. Carter added 2 more FTs. The Ags turned it over twice in the last 23 seconds but LSU was only able to get 2 points.
Final Score Ags 75 LSU 69
- Carter led the Ags with 27 points on 7-15 shooting. She was a perfect 12-12 from the FT line. She was one rebound short of a double-double and had 7 assists and 2 steals.
- Khaalia HIllsman didn’t get enough touches but she made the most of the ones she got. She had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Khaalia was a perfect 6-6 from the field and 5-5 from the FT line. She also blocked 3 shots to tie Danielle Adams for 5th on the single season list.
- Danni (15) and Jasmine (10) were also in double figures scoring. Williams is now second on the all-time single season list for 3 pointers made. She only needs 1 more to tie the record.
Coach Blair had been saying that he thought 2 wins would be needed to get the Ags back to a 4 seed in the NCAAs. The Ags did their part. During the game, Charlie Creme, who does the women’s bracketology for ESPN, had the Ags just short of the top 16. But he shifted the Ags to a 4 seed after Georgia demolished predicted 3 seed Mizzou in the final quarterfinal. Missouri scored in single digits in 3 out of 4 quarters. It was Mizzou’s third straight subpar offensive performance. Creme would say later that this was bad enough to drop Mizzou out of the top 16. Combined with Duke losing in the ACC tourney, Creme now predicts a 4 seed for A&M.
Saturday’s seminfinal vs MSU is scheduled for ESPNU at 4PM. Georgia will face S. Carolina in the second semifinal.