Part of being able to make a game-winning shot is having the courage to take one.
With Tennessee intent on making certain someone on LSU’s roster other than Khayla Pointer would beat them in Sunday’s tense Southeastern Conference contest, sophomore reserve Tiara Young tried to answer the call.
Young, one of the nation’s top career prep scorers, came close to producing in the clutch. But a drive in the final three seconds of play against two defenders resulted in a difficult shot that was off the mark, sending the Tigers to a 64-63 defeat.
“Yes, I did,” Young said of her belief in making the first game-winning shot in her collegiate career. “I knew KP (Pointer) would try and go get it and they doubled her. I stepped up. I felt pretty confident about taking it.”
Now comes the tough part.
LSU (4-6, 2-2 in SEC) must move past the disappointment of the Tennessee loss and turn its attention to arguably an even greater challenge when seventh-ranked and co-SEC leading Texas A&M (12-0) visits the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Thursday for a 6 p.m. tipoff.
The game will be carried by SEC Network+ and broadcast in Baton Rouge by 107.3-FM.
“Everybody was sad. Everybody felt it,” Young said. “It’s something we’ve got to move on from and be able to shake back.”
LSU coach Nikki Fargas would prefer her team execute better during the earlier stages of games and avoid having to rely on such 11th-hour heroics as Young’s shot attempt.
Against Tennessee, Fargas pointed to missed scoring opportunities such as missed layups and free throws and doing a better job rebounding. The Tigers, who were without their leading rebounder Faustine Aifuwa for half of the game because of foul trouble, were outrebounded by 14, including a key offensive rebound on a missed free throw with 22.8 seconds left.
“I don’t want the game to come down to just a missed box out,” Fargas said. “We’ve got to secure and do everything we can to position ourselves to be in the lead and be in control late game.”
While Pointer was spectacular in matching her season high of 25 points and leads LSU with a 15.4 scoring average, there were other bright spots coming out of the Tennessee game for the Tigers.
Young came off the bench to score 11 points and has averaged 13 points in her last three games.
“I’ve built up my confidence more and by doing that I’ve been putting up more shots and just trying to get back into the groove,” she said.
Another source of optimism came from 6-1 freshman Karli Seay, who played a career-high 38 minutes in place of Aifuwa and produced six points along with career highs in rebounds (six) and steals (six).
“She’s also becoming more comfortable in her scoring and that’s something that we need,” Fargas said of Seay who averages 5.1 points. “I like that she’s playing a lot smarter. If we don’t have numbers you can see her spacing the floor out, taking the time and saying we’re going to get an even better shot. She’s one of the best on-ball defenders that we have on our team.”
Texas A&M, which has seven Division I transfers and a junior college transfer, brings in a veteran team with similar size to Tennessee but with better balanced scoring.
The Aggies, who are tied for the league lead with South Carolina (8-1, 3-0) and Tennessee (8-1, 2-0), feature four players scoring in double figures and two more between 9.6-9.1 points.
Senior Aaliyah Williams, a graduate transfer from Arkansas, is the reigning co-SEC Player of the Week with 15 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. She scored 27 in A&M’s win over No. 13 Arkansas and added 18 in a victory over No. 10 Kentucky. The Aggies also have a formidable post presence in 6-2 senior N’dea Jones (13.1 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6-4 senior Ciera Johnson (11.3 points, 7.9).
“We’ve got to move on, and we know we’ve got a big opponent in Texas A&M,” Fargas said. “I truly believe again the battle of the boards is going to dictate the tempo, the pace of the game. We’re very familiar with A&M. They’re familiar with us. We’re playing each other twice a year and each time it’s a fight.”