The Ags were coming off a loss at Arkansas where Coach Blair described the team as having been outplayed in every aspect of the game. Meanwhile, LSU was hoping to turn a difficult season around and was coming off a home win vs. Ole Miss. Despite being 7-8 overall going into the contest, the Tigers were 5-1 at home.
And Courtney Williams' back injury that kept her participation in the Arkansas game to a minimum was not better.
Coach Blair went with a very different starting lineup. With Courtney Williams' injury, it wasn't surprising to see Chelsea Jennings step into the starting lineup. But Blair also replaced Jasmine Lumpkin with Anriel Howard at the 4, and in the biggest surprise, put Jordan Jones on the bench and started Shlonte Allen at the point. Those three joined Courtney Walker and Khaalia Hillsman to start the game.
Anriel's energy on the backboards was a positive, but otherwise, this lineup was a disaster on the offensive end of the floor. Fortunately for A&M, LSU wasn't that much better. The two teams combined for 3 turnovers (2 on the Ags) before anyone even took a shot. The Ags got the first points of the game on a pair of FTs by Walker at 7:24. The first field goal occurred with 4:38 remaining in the quarter when Rina Hill tied the game at 2. A&M's first field goal was a jumper by Walker with 2:09 remaining, about a minute after Coach Blair decided that the Jones on the bench experiment was not working. And that was it for the Ags. 4 points, for a 10 minute quarter. A&M had 7 turnovers in the quarter, and was 1-11 from the field.
And only trailed by 4. The main positives were Howard's 5 rebounds, and holding LSU to 8 points.
8-4 LSU after the first.
The second quarter was only good in comparison to the first. Both teams scored 11. The Ags added 6 more turnovers to make their halftime total 13, committed by 7 different players. Anriel grabbed a couple more boards to have 7 in the first half. Unfortunately, her attempts to convert offensive rebounds into points were way off. A couple of late A&M baskets kept it from being a half with more turnovers than points.
LSU got the lead up to 10 with 2:53 left in the half, but then went scoreless for the rest of the half, allowing the Ags to go into the locker room down by just 4, after a really bad half. Blair used a zone D with a small lineup for part of the quarter. With CWill not available, this was with various combinations of Lumpkin, Howard, Jennings, Taylor Cooper or Danni Williams with Walker and Jones.
19-15 at halftime. The Ags shooting percentage in the second quarter improved a lot, finishing at 5-22 for the half.
Coming out of the locker room, Coach Blair told the SECN sideline reporter that the play in the first half had set basketball back 20 years, and that he thought LSU coach Fargas would probably say the same about her team.
Howard fouled Hill on the first possession of the second half. Hill made 1 of 2 FTs to make it a 5 point lead and then the Ags combined renewed defensive intensity with being more aggressive taking the ball inside to go on a 13-0 run. Walker scored 9 in that stretch, after being held to 6 in the first half. LSU cut the lead to 5 but then the Ags stretched it to 12 by the end of the quarter, making it a 22 point swing after 2:53 in the second quarter.
The Ags had found their offensive rhythm while LSU continued to struggle. The lead never fell below 10, which happened when Jenna Deemer hit a jumper in the first minute of the quarter. That was followed by an 8-0 run by A&M where Jasmine Lumpkin and Danni Williams scored all 8 points. There was only 4:48 remaining when LSU got their second basket of the final frame. Neither team scored again until another basket by Hyder cut the A&M lead to 16 with 1:14 remaining. The Ags stretched the lead back to 20 before Hyder and LSU's final basket kept the Tigers from tying the worst scoring output in their program's history.
Final score: Ags win 53-35
I missed the pregame and was watching it all on TV, so I never heard whether there was an explanation for bringing Jones off the bench. Blair might address it during the weekly radio show on Monday, or in a midweek presser, but I wonder if it was a combination of knowing that Nikki Fargas was bringing her best players off the bench, and how it sometimes helps a player to get a feel for the flow of the game from the sideline with the coaches before coming in.
How would you like at the end of the game to realize (Chelsea) Jennings had two points, and has been lighting it up. Courtney Williams was on the bench the whole ball game. Both of my two five players had zero points. Jordan Jones, who didn't start, came in and had four points. Somehow we still win the game. Sometimes that's what depth is all about.
- Coach Blair
Depth was valuable, especially with LSU depleted by injuries. But I'm not sure I'd attribute this win to depth as much as to defense and Courtney Walker. I also thought that while Walker talked about having to raise the team's energy in the second half, energy wasn't the real problem in the first-half struggles. Perhaps we mean different things by energy, but as color commentator Nell Fortner noted, both teams were playing very hard; they just weren't converting the energy into production.
- Walker had her third 20+ point game in a row. With CWill out, she really had to carry the scoring. Walker had 21 while the rest of the team had 32, and a lot of it came in the third quarter, where A&M really turned the game around.
- Anriel Howard had new high in rebounding in her young career with 14 boards. Anriel has quickly become a fan favorite. She added 4 points and a blocked shot to her stat line.
- Jasmine Lumpkin got going in the second half and had a high of 11 points for her career at A&M.
- The posts were not productive on the stat sheet. Khaalia Hillsman and Rachel Mitchell were both shut out in scoring and combined for just 5 rebounds (4 for Khaalia, 1 for Rachel) in 31 minutes. But I thought they both were valuable for defense in the third quarter and in preventing LSU from doubling Walker in the third quarter. Rachel had 2 steals and a block. The block moved Rachel ahead of Adaora Elonu into sole possession of 9th all time for career blocked shots with 89. Ahead are Lisa Jordan with 90, LaToya Michauex at 91, and Danielle Adams at 96. Adams' number is for only two years at A&M.
- The 35 points for LSU was their second-worst offensive performance of all time. It was just 1 basket better than the 33 at #8 Vandy in 1995, making Coach Blair's comment about setting back basketball 20 years just about right. It their worst offensive performance at home ever.
- Ole Miss
- 7 PM CST Jan 14, 2016
- Reed Arena
- SECN+ streaming KZNE radio 1150 AM/102.7 FM
Ole Miss went through a pretty weak nonconference schedule at 8-5 and is 1-2 in SEC play, having lost to LSU and Florida after winning their opener against Vandy. Coach Matt Insell has a young team: there are no seniors on the roster after graduating the leaders of last season's 19-14 team. Ole Miss fans must especially miss Tia Faleru, who led the team in scoring and rebounding, and was All-SEC. Likely starters
- #11 6-3 Jr F Shequila Joseph (5.6 ppg) is the tallest starter. She started every game as a freshman but went to the bench as the 6th woman last year. She had 10 points in last year's game at Reed.
- #05 5-9 Jr G Erika Sisk (11.4 ppg) started every game last year and every game so far this season. She leads the team in assists and steals. She led the team in scoring in last year's game vs the Ags at Reed Arena, scoring 15.
- #23 5-10 So G Shandrika Sessom (16.4 ppg) leads Ole Miss in scoring and is second in rebounds/game. She's started every game this season and 23/31 games last year. Sessom has taken 267 shots this season, which is more than 100 more attempts than Sisk, who is next highest at 158. For comparison, Walker leads the Ags with 208 shots with CWill second at 202, even after missing the last game and most of the Arkansas game.
- #25 5-8 Fr G Alissa Alston (6.3 ppg). Just looking at the stats, it appears that Alston displaced 5-8 So A'Queen Hayes from the starting lineup on Sunday, after Hayes started against LSU and played 29 minutes. Alston led the Rebels with 17 points vs Florida.
- #20 5-8 Fr G Madinah Muhammad (6.6 ppg)
Overall Mississippi is averaging 74.7 points per game, but that is inflated by their cupcake OOC schedule. In SEC play they've scored 55, 57, and 65. The postgame comments from Coach Insell sound like the team is frustrated right now.
There comes a point when you have to just be tougher and step up and make some shots. We went 9-of-23 from the free throw line, in the third quarter alone we missed ten layups, eight of which were uncontested. Those are tough plays that you just have to make.
After the last two games, the Ags can't take any team for granted, especially with CWill nursing her back injury. At least this game is at home. The Ags have to be sure they focus on putting away the Rebels and not look ahead to Sunday's trip to #2 S. Carolina.
I have travel plans this weekend that mean I will miss both the Ole Miss game. I may not be able to watch S. Carolina while I'm in California either. So any recaps will be based on even less information than usual.