The LSU Lady Tigers sprinted out to one of its best starts of the season against the best team LSU (10-4, 2-1 SEC) had faced this season, No. 5 Mississippi State Bulldogs.
The Lady Tigers pulled up to a 17-10 lead, but was not enough as LSU fell 70-83.
“That was a heck of a basketball game,” Miss State coach Vic Schaefer said. “Hats off to LSU, they really came out and jumped on us. I was proud of how we responded.”
LSU could not stop the Bulldogs (17-0, 3-0 SEC) powerful three point shooting as the Bulldogs shot 7-of-11 from the field, nor could they slow down junior center Teaira McCowan who had 31 points and 20 rebounds.
“(LSU) managed to push me way out (in the first half),” said McCowan, who was held to 8 points in the first half. “That is somewhere I should not be. I should be on the block and catching and scoring. I had to find myself.”
Along with the hot shooting and play of McCowan, the Bulldogs were able to break away on a 17-0 run at the end of the second and start of the third.
Still for LSU, this was a far cry from two seasons ago or even last season, when the Lady Tigers lost two games to Miss State by a combined 43 points.
“When we played them the first time last season, they beat us by nearly thirty,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said. “This team has five freshman. The future of this program is very bright. I feel like if we can play and compete at higher level and get better every night, I feel like this team could be one of the best teams in our conference at the end of the season.”
Junior guard Chloe Jackson in particular shined for LSU.
Jackson had 19 points in the first half after making her first nine shots. She finished with 25 points.
Along with the play of Jackson, LSU had bright spots in sophomore forward Ayana Mitchell who tallied 17 points and 11 rebounds and senior guard Raigyne Louis who had 20 points.
LSU struggles were in part connected to Miss State’s experience advantage. The Lady Tigers have just one senior, while the Bulldogs have four in their starting lineup.
“We are a young team,” Mitchell said. “To hang with a team that has scorers, that has size – that is a positive especially going on the road for the next two games on the road.”
LSU also managed to handle senior guard Victoria Vivians to just 4 points. She had entered third in the SEC in scoring, averaging 20.4 points per game.
LSU was able to keep her in foul trouble for most of the game as she played just 18 minutes with four fouls.
Still, foul trouble was equally as damaging to LSU as Louis played just 22 minutes in the game.
Louis had four fouls in the game, one of three Lady Tigers with four fouls along with freshman Jaelyn Richard-Harris and Jackson.
“I made stupid fouls,” Louis said. “I am proud of my teammates who stayed aggressive until I can get back into the game. Being off the court, kind of messed up what we were doing.”
Richard-Harris continued a hot streak for LSU. She entered the game leading the SEC in assist/turnover ratio and had six points. Her ratio dropped to 3.0, but was instrumental in keeping LSU from turning over the ball against an aggressive Bulldogs defense.
Richard-Harris came in big at the end of the third, hitting a buzzer-beating three from half court to give the Lady Tigers momentum to close out the game.
“We practice shooting half court shots every shootaround,” Fargas said. “I thought she had good momentum and it was on target. That was a good momentum note for us.”
Mississippi State found success in bench play. The Bulldogs outscored LSU’s bench 16-2.
LSU felt that bench players did well in other areas with LSU’s foul problems. Sophomore center Yasmine Bidikuindila who played a career-high 13 minutes in particular stood out.
“I think she did a really good job of defending McCowan,” Mitchell said.
The Lady Tigers will play their next two games on the road against the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators.
While Alabama (12-4, 2-1 SEC) and Florida (8-8, 0-3 SEC) are not ranked like Missouri and Miss State were, LSU is eager to get back to action.
“In the SEC, anybody can beat anybody at the end of the day,” Louis said. “We just take every opponent seriously. It is not an easy road. ”