LSU’s ability to dig out of a 13-point third quarter deficit and pull away to a 77-69 victory over Ole Miss in overtime set the stage for an even greater challenge.
Now the Tigers have to exhibit the ability to hold their share of the Southeastern Conference lead.
LSU (4-4 overall), one of three teams with a 2-0 record in league play, will try to keep its spot among the SEC’s frontrunners when it visits Alabama (8-1, 1-1) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Coleman Coliseum.
The game will be carried by SEC Network+ and broadcast in Baton Rouge by 107.3-FM.
After overcoming a slow start to defeat Auburn (56-43) in its SEC opener at home, LSU followed a different script in its first road test in the league Monday at Ole Miss.
The Tigers opened a 19-16 lead in the first quarter but trailed 30-27 at halftime and 52-44 after three quarters.
LSU, which fell behind by as many as 13 points in the third quarter, responded behind the play of senior point guard Khayla Pointer, who missed a four-minute span of the quarter with an injury.
Pointer helped the Tigers respond in the fourth quarter and produced a double-double with 18 points and 12 assists, and senior center Faustine Aifuwa scored 10 of her career-high 20 points in the second half.
LSU put together a 10-0 run late in the fourth quarter that resulted in a 64-62 lead on Aifuwa’s basket with 1:11 left in regulation.
The Tigers then went on an 8-2 run in overtime and outscored the Rebels 13-5 in the extra session with Aifuwa and freshman Karli Seay scoring four points apiece.
Sophomore Tiara Young scored a season-high 16 points to go with a career-best eight rebounds and Seay added a career-high 13 points.
“This team hasn’t been a great first half team,” said LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Fargas, whose Tigers have won three straight over Alabama. “But what we have been good at is late game. In the second half, anytime we put ourselves in a situation to tie a game, we’ve been able to go from tying to getting a lead. When this group decides to play with that type of consistency for 40 minutes, they’re going to be really tough to play against and to guard.”
LSU’s finish was enough to keep the Tigers on equal footing in the SEC with both 10th ranked Kentucky (9-1, 2-0) and No. 5 South Carolina (7-1, 2-0) and a half game ahead of No. 8 Texas A&M (10-0, 1-0).
Pointer and Aifuwa are the team’s top scorers at 13 and 11.1 points, respectively. Pointer is third in the SEC in steals (2.6), while Aifuwa leads the Tigers in rebounding (9.5) and blocks (1.8).
Young is part of a rotation off the bench with 7.6 points with Seay averaging 5.1 points.
“This showed a team that has some maturity as well,” Fargas said of her team’s comeback vs. Ole Miss. “We were in foul trouble. We lost Trassi and three other starters were in foul trouble and we were able to play through that adversity. That says a lot about the maturity about this team.”
COVID-19 related issues have been of paramount importance in Alabama’s season thus far, resulting in three games being cancelled with the most recent coming Dec. 21 against Jacksonville.
The Crimson Tide came back from that cancellation to split their first two SEC games with a 74-59 win over Missouri before dropping a 77-60 verdict against South Carolina.
Alabama features two of the SEC’s top eight scorers. Second team all-league performer senior forward Jasmine Walker (20.6) is the SEC’s second-leading scorer followed by senior guard Jordan Lewis (16.9) and senior forward Ariyah Copeland (15.7 points), the SEC’s leader in field goal percentage (71.0).