Mulkey’s tinkering with backcourt against Florida saw Van Lith playing No. 2 with Poa at point and it paid dividends

Hailey Van Lith, LSU
Mulkey's backcourt changes had Hailey Van Lith firing on all cylinders against Florida, and Last-Tear Poa pulling the trigger like it was practice. PHOTO by Jonathan Mailhes

When Hailey Van Lith transferred to LSU, expectations were through the roof.

She had just come off a season where she averaged 19.7 points per game, had four straight 20-point games in the NCAA Tournament and was joining the reigning national champions as the top transfer in the country.

However, things have gotten off to a slow start for Van Lith as a Tiger. She’s averaging just 11.8 points per game at LSU, her least amount since her freshman year at Louisville. LSU has also dropped four games so far this season after only losing once during the regular season in 2023.

“My motto for this year has been ‘Take one step every day,’” Van Lith said. “Sometimes I have bad games but the next morning I get up and take another step. It’s hard, but that’s why I came here.”

Against Florida this weekend, LSU fans got a glimpse of the Van Lith they expected coming into the season, and it might have been because of a position and lineup change by Kim Mulkey.

Van Lith’s shooting improved greatly against the Gators, and it was influenced by having junior guard Last-Tear Poa on the court. Poa played 27 minutes against Florida, the most minutes she’s had this season since Van Lith missed a four-game stretch with a foot injury in December.

Having Poa on the court allowed Van Lith to move to an off-ball guard position with Poa running the offense as the point guard. The combination of Poa and Van Lith seemed to open up the court and allow the offense to be the most efficient it has been all season.

Six different players scored 10 or more points for LSU and Van Lith scored 21 points, a season high, in LSU’s dominate 106-66 victory. She shot 54.5% from the field and chipped in with seven rebounds. Poa added nine points and four assists from the bench. LSU shot an efficient 49.3% from the field and 46.7% from three.

Van Lith put up season highs all while tying her season-low for minutes played with just 21.

In the previous game, a loss against Mississippi State, Van Lith went just 1 of 6 from the field and scored only four points in 31 minutes. In that game, Poa saw only 12 minutes.

“I think I just decided to be myself,” Van Lith said. “My teammates have been encouraging me. My coaches have been encouraging me. So I was finally able to just find that.”

Van Lith and the Tigers have shown flashes throughout the season, but the game against Florida seemed to be their most complete game so far. The 106 points scored set a school record for most points in an SEC game, beating the 103 points scored against Alabama in 2004. The 66 points allowed were the second least in an SEC game this season for the Tigers.

“I think it’s mostly just the attitude and competitiveness that I bring to the table,” Van Lith said. “It will help our team. I have to bring it, or we aren’t going to reach our potential. So it’s on me to continue to do that.”

Up next, the Tigers will take on unranked Vanderbilt in Nashville. That game will start this Thursday at 8 p.m.

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Will Nickel

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