LSU women’s basketball closes the regular season with fifth straight loss

Photo by Rebecca Warren

LSU’s lowest scoring third quarter of the year in its final regular season game doomed the Tigers to their fifth straight women’s basketball loss Thursday night.

Mississippi State flipped LSU’s eight-point halftime lead to a nine-point advantage entering the final quarter as the Bulldogs headed home with a 68-59 victory at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

State outscored the Tigers 25-8 in the third quarter as LSU had as many turnovers as points in the period.

Bulldogs’ guard Aliyah Matharu, the game’s leading scorer with 19 points, had 11 points in the third quarter when she outscored LSU by herself.

Myah Taylor, Matharu’s backcourt mate, had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. State center Jessika Carter added 14 points and 9 rebounds

LSU senior guard Khayla Pointer scored 17 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and dealt 4 assists in her final home game as a Tiger. Also, senior center Faustine Aifuwa had 7 points and 10 rebounds and senior forward Awa Trasi came off the bench to contribute 12 points and 5 rebounds.

“I thought in the second half they were very intentional on picking up their intensity and really getting after us defensively,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said of Mississippi State. “It allowed them to get their transition game going, and we weren’t able to score the basketball enough possessions in that third quarter.

“We only made three baskets, so it’s really hard to set our pressure when you’re not making baskets. We had too many breakdowns in defensive awareness. We were giving them transition and threes. It’s really difficult to guard a team when you leave players wide open.”

The Tigers, 8-12 overall and 6-8 in the SEC after a 6-3 start in league play, now head to the league tournament starting next Thursday in Greenville, S.C. LSU’s opponent isn’t yet known, but the Tigers have lost in their first game of the tourney the last three years,

LSU has had two games this season canceled by COVID-19. If the Tigers fail to win two games in the SEC tournament, it will be the first time since 1994-95 that LSU hasn’t finished with a double-digit victory total for the season.

In its latest loss, LSU’s third-quarter collapse followed a tried-and-true script for this season. In many losses, one exceptionally bad quarter put the Tigers in a hole they couldn’t escape, despite a string of fourth-quarter rallies.

Things looked good for LSU at halftime against Mississippi State. The Tigers closed the second quarter on an 11-2 run and had a 33-25 lead at the break.

LSU seemed to have momentum since Mississippi State, the SEC’s third best 3-point shooting team, had just one 3 in the first half.

The LSU lead expanded to 10 points at 38-28 with 8:28 left in the third quarter on a Pointer jumper before the Bulldogs steamrolled the Tigers with an impressive mix of strong inside and outside offense, and tenacious defense.

State closed the quarter on a 22-3 run for a 50-41 lead as Matharu hit 4 of 5 shots including 3 of 3s.

The Bulldogs never could push the lead to double digits. LSU, desperately looking for a spark, got one from TCU transfer Ryann Payne, who was playing just her third game of the season after rehabbing from shoulder surgery.

Payne scored 8 points in the quarter, cutting State’s lead to four points at 58-54 with 2:18 left.

But despite the Tigers’ frantic defensive efforts in the last two minutes, the Bulldogs (9-7, 4-6 SEC with seven games canceled because of COVID-19) held it together for its eighth straight win over the Tigers.  

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