LSU overcame the momentary loss of its senior leader and top scorer midway through the third quarter and rallied back from a double-digit deficit for a 77-69 SEC overtime victory at Ole Miss Monday afternoon.
Tigers’ senior center Faustine Aifuwa scored 10 of her team-high 20 points in the second half, including a pair of field goals in overtime, to lead four players in double figures. Khayla Pointer scored 11 of her 18 points after the first quarter to go with 12 assists, while sophomore Tiara Young had a season-high 16 points off the bench and freshman Karli Seay added a career-best 13, including four in overtime.
Aifuwa matched her career high in points, while Pointer also tied her career-high in assists.
LSU (4-4, 2-0) travels to Alabama on Thursday before hosting Tennessee at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“When you have four players score in double figures that’s a plus for us because we have to have that consistently this season,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said. “I was glad to see Faustine really establish herself inside and be that presence that we needed. When you’re playing another post player like Shakira Austin (20 points), you need your five man to cancel out their five man. Faustine showed the level of play that she can go to when she’s playing against another talented post player.”
LSU lost Pointer to an apparent leg injury with just under five minutes left in the third quarter when she was whistled for charging on a drive to the basket. When she left the floor and went to the team’s locker room, the Tigers trailed 40-33 – a deficit that grew to 13 points (47-34) on a layup from Ole Miss’ Mimi Reid.
Pointer returned at the 1:55 mark in the same quarter and helped LSU reduced Ole Miss’ lead to 52-44 after a pair of free throws from Young going into the fourth quarter.
“The play of Khayla Pointer, to have 12 assists, was very unselfish play,” Fargas added. “She’s a great playmaker for us and glad that we were able to knock down shots and the recipient of some of that playmaking action was Tiara Young. She was right in her money spot when she was going to her mid-range game. I thought Karli Seay had a very balanced attack.”
LSU finally tied the game (62-62) for the fifth time – the first since it was 21-all in the second quarter – on Pointer’s fastbreak layup with 1:42 to play. The Tigers then regained their first lead since the 7:56 mark of the second quarter when Pointer found Aifuwa on the fastbreak for a layup and 64-62 advantage that capped a 10-0 run with 1:11 to go.
Ole Miss (6-1, 0-1) forced overtime on Austin’s basket with 55 seconds to play. The Rebels had an opportunity to win the game in regulation, but Austin misfired on a fadeaway shot with four seconds left.
Seay’s field goal 14 seconds into overtime gave LSU a lead (66-64) it wouldn’t relinquish.
Aifuwa scored on back-to-back trips, the second coming on an assist from Young, to extend LSU’s lead to 70-66 when Pointer added a basket that pushed that margin to 72-66 with 2:30 remaining.
The Tigers never allowed the Rebels to get closer than five the remainder of the way with Seay’s 12-footer making it 75-67 with 43 seconds showing.
“I was really proud of our team and to not give up,” Fargas said. “We didn’t have the best first half (trailed 30-27) that we could have. We missed some defensive assignments by giving up way too many threes. In the second half I thought we settled in and were able to get the ball to our playmakers and make the plays that we needed to win the game.”
LSU shot 46 percent (31 of 67) from the field and outrebounded Ole Miss 43-35.
“This team is gelling,” Fargas said. “We’re figuring out our identity as we’re playing these games. I just feel like we’re getting better. I feel like the more we play I think the more we’ll become comfortable with each other.”