Back from the holiday: Six players score in double figures to pace No. 7 LSU women’s basketball past Jacksonville

LSU point guard Hailey Van Lith (11) returned to the starting lineup and scored 11 points and dished out five assists in a 110-64 victory Saturday over Jacksonville. PHOTO BY: LSU athletics

The seventh-ranked LSU women’s basketball team welcomed back point guard Hailey Van Lith for the first time in more than a month.

Van Lith’s return coincided with the team’s first game in 10 days because of the Christmas holidays and the result was somewhat disjointed.

Six players scored in double figures and LSU clearly had its way with an overmatched opponent in taking a 110-68 victory Saturday over Jacksonville University before a crowd of 12,347 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

“I thought it was very ugly,” LSU women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey said. “We had 52 free throws and they had 32 free throws. Nobody wants to see that. That doesn’t mean the officiating was bad at all, but we’ve got to get better at stopping dribble penetration. Hopefully with Hailey back we’ll get some sense of being a better team defensively.

“That was not very pretty tonight,” Mulkey added. “We only had two points in the paint at one point and they had 18. That’s all off dribble penetration. Angel (Reese), (Aneesah) Morrow and Flau’jae (Johnson) struggled with finishing. It was too many missed layups.”

LSU (13-1) finished the non-conference part of its schedule with 13 consecutive victories. They await the start of Southeastern Conference play at home next Thursday against Missouri at 8 p.m.

Johnson and Morrow each scored 20 points with Morrow registering her eight straight double-double with 10 rebounds. Reese added her sixth double-double with 17 points and season-high 20 rebounds, while Mikaylah Williams added 17, Aalayah Del Rosario 14 off the bench and Van Lith added 11 on the strength of three 3-pointers to go with five assists and four steals.

“I feel like we’re getting better each and every day at practice,” LSU freshman forward Janae Kent said. “It’s good to have Hailey back. It’s good to have the whole team back together. We’re excited for SEC play.”

LSU reeled off a 11-0 run over the first 2 ½ minutes of the fourth quarter for a 93-52 advantage.

Del Rosario scored nine of her 11 points in the fourth quarter, adding to Johnson’s opening layup with an inside basket and putback, and Morrow finished the surge with an inside turnaround and layup on a feed from Poa, who had a game-high seven assists.

LSU got to the 100-point mark for the sixth time this season over the next two minutes on three straight points from Del Rosario. Poa also made two foul shots when Jacksonville coach Special Jennings received a second technical and was ejected.

Williams made it 100-54 at the six-minute mark on a drive to the goal. She gave her team their biggest lead of 107-57 with 3:48 left on a 17-foot jumper.

LSU shot 47% from the field (31 of 66) and made 50% of its 3-pointers on 8 of 16 shooting, a season-high for made threes in a game. The Tigers capitalized on a bonanza from the foul line with 76.9% (40 of 52) to go with a 54-26 rebound advantage, 18 steals and 10 blocked shots.

Guard Edyn Battle paced Jacksonville (4-9) with 17 points and guard Asiana Britt added 11. The Dolphins, which dropped their fourth straight game, had four players foul out and Jennings was ejected midway through the fourth quarter.

“When you’ve been gone that long those types of things are expected,” Mulkey said of her team’s 23 turnovers. “Defensively it’s just a commitment. It’s me making them do it. Just putting the ball to the side and spend more time defensively now that we’re all back and healthy.”

Morrow scored eight points and Johnson seven to help LSU bust the game open in the third quarter for a commanding 82-52 lead.

Johnson opened the quarter with a high, arching 3-pointer from the corner and the Tigers extended their lead to 20 points (65-45) on a technical free throw from Williams, and then 30 (82-52) with 13.7 seconds left on Del Rosario’s three-point play.

Van Lith reached double-digits for the first time since Nov. 25 with a transition layup following Johnson’s blocked shot at the 3:39 mark.

LSU compensated for 21.4% shooting from the field by shooting 75% (15 of 20) at the free throw line for a 51-35 halftime lead.

The Tigers made three field goals the entire quarter, two of which came in the last minutes of play but none over the last three minutes.

Reese scored all nine of her points in the quarter from the free throw line.  

The Tigers went 10 of 12 from the line over the last six minutes and Williams added a 15-footer and Poa a 3-pointer from the wing following Johnson’s blocked shot to make it 47-26 with 2:47 showing.

LSU registered its third-highest point total in the first quarter this season with a 29-13 lead.

The Tigers, who scored the game’s first 10 points, had six field goals in the quarter that all came from behind the 3-point arc. Van Lith made a quick impact with a pair of 3s, and Williams added another trifecta in the first three minutes of play.

“We can shoot it out there,” Mulkey said. “It’s not that we can’t. We’ve got players at all positions that can do a little bit of everything offensively. We can shoot it out there if we need to.”

Battle’s 10-footer finally ended Jacksonville’s 0 of 3 shooting, a scoreless span that lasted nearly five minutes and also included four turnovers.

Van Lith scored five straight points and Johnson added her team’s sixth 3-pointer in the quarter to cap a 13-0 run for a comfortable 23-2 lead with 3:30 to go in the quarter.

“The first part of our season’s over,” Mulkey said. “We need to evaluate what we think we did in the first part of our season, and we need to flush it. And now you go into what’s the most important part and that’s SEC play.”

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