NCAA Women’s Baton Rouge Regional Preview: LSU vs. Louisville matchup in second round could be in the offing

LSU point guard Hailey Van Lith (11) splits a pair of defenders from Texas A&M during an LSU win. PHOTO BY: Michael Bacigalupi

The LSU women’s basketball team has its eyes set on Cleveland, where the Final Four of the Women’s NCAA Tournament will be held.

To get there, The Tigers will have to make it out of a tough bracket and win at least two more home games.

No. 3 LSU (28-5) is hosting the Baton Rouge Regional and will play the No. 14 seeded Rice Owls (19-14) in round one. The Owls won the American Athletic Conference tournament to secure their NCAA Tournament berth and are currently on a four-game winning streak.

This is Rice’s first tournament appearance since the 2018-19 season when it was a 12-seed. It lost in the first round that year in overtime to Marquette.

Malia Fisher leads the Owls in scoring with 13.1 points per game and rebounds with 7 per game. Senior guard Destiny Jackson averages 11.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. The Owls score 67.4 points per game and record 37.6 rebounds per game.

No. 11 Middle Tennessee and No. 6 Louisville will play in the other game at the Baton Rouge Regional. Louisville (24-9) is LSU guard Hailey Van Lith’s former school and is coming off a loss to Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. Middle Tennessee (29-4) won the conference USA tournament and is on a 19-game winning streak. It won 17 of the 19 games by double digits.

Savannah Wheeler is averaging 17.3 points per game for Middle Tennessee and is the team’s top scorer. Middle Tennessee averages 71.8 points per game this season and has four different players averaging over 10 points per game. Anastasiia Boldyreva is the team’s top rebounder averaging 8.5 boards per game while also scoring 14.8 points per game. Middle Tennessee averages 38 rebounds per game and 10.6 offensive rebounds per game.

Louisville gives up 63.1 points per game to its opponents. Kiki Jefferson is the Cardinals’ top scorer this season with 12.5 points per game. Louisville scores 73.5 points per game and averages 37.3 rebounds per game. Four different Louisville players average over 10 points per game.

The Cardinals have made five straight Elite Eight appearances but has found itself in bad form recently. They have gone 5-6 in their last 11 games and have not won consecutive games since they went on a three-game win streak back in January. They’ve had at least 15 turnovers in each of their last five games.

The winner of the Baton Rouge regional will play the winner of the Los Angeles regional. Creighton, UNLV, California Baptist and UCLA are in the Los Angeles regional. UCLA (25-6) will be the favorite to make it out of that region.

Louisville and Middle Tennessee will play Friday at 12:30 p.m. and LSU’s game with Rice will be that evening 30 minutes after the first game ends. The winners of those two games will face off on Sunday.

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