LSU women battle back from a 13-point deficit for an SEC opening basketball victory

After a Thursday night SEC women’s basketball opener in which LSU and Auburn teams combined to commit 43 turnovers and miss 82 shots including 24 3-pointers, perhaps the pair of Tigers made a New Year’s resolution to not play that poorly again the rest of the season.

LSU, which trailed by 13 points in third quarter, took advantage of seven Auburn turnovers in the period, got on a 16-0 run and managed to ease away in the final minutes for a 56-43 victory at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Following a first half in which the Tigers stood around too much on offense and lived up to their ranking as the 278th worst shooting team in Division 1 basketball, LSU came alive by unleashing a full-court trapping press against an Auburn team averaging 17.1 points per game.

Auburn (5-4), playing without its best player Unique Thompson who averages a double-double and who missed the game because of medical reasons, just melted under the LSU pressure.

“I’d like to take the first half back but everything in this life is a learning lesson and what I’ve seen from this team is that they do have fight in them, and they have resilience,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said.

“We make the game a whole lot more difficult than it needs to be. Once we settled in and picked up our defensive pressure, that’s when we got some baskets and that’s what got us going. This is a team that’s shown we can play and be very aggressive for about 20-25 minutes and need to put together 40 minutes of hard-nosed, focused basketball.”

Eight LSU players, including every starter, had at least one steal with senior Khayla Pointer and sophomores Domonique Davis and Tiara Young collecting two each. LSU finished with 11 steals as the Tigers (3-4) scored 22 points off 24 Auburn turnovers.

Pointer led LSU with 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Redshirt senior center Faustine Aifuwa contributed 6 points and 10 rebounds. Young and senior Jailin Cherry each scored 8 points each off the bench.

Auburn shot a season-low 28.3 percent from the field (17-60) and 3-of-18 (16.7%) from 3-point range. Freshman Aicha Coulibaly led Auburn with a career-high 12 points and fellow freshman Romi Levy added 8 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, along with 5 steals.

Because of COVID-19, LSU hadn’t played a game in 10 days prior to Thursday’s win. By the time the Tigers travel to Oxford on Monday at 3 p.m. to face Ole Miss in a rescheduled from its original playing date on Sunday because of COVID issues in the Ole Miss program, Fargas believes her team can continue its upswing.

“With COVID, we’ve had two big breaks where we play two games and then we’re off for ten days, then we play two games and we’re off for another several days” Fargas said. “So, I think now, getting into the SEC schedule and playing every week, two games a week, I think that’s really going to help out team gel and get better a lot quicker.”

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