Too little, too late as LSU’s women lose Sunday at No. 1 South Carolina

A furious fourth-quarter finish wasn’t enough for the LSU women’s basketball team to overcome earlier misdeeds in Sunday’s 66-59 SEC road setback at No. 1 South Carolina.

Behind a career-high 19 points from senior guard Jailyn Cherry, LSU sliced an 18-point third-quarter deficit to five points in the final 30 seconds of play before the Gamecocks wrapped up a season sweep and extended their win streak over the Tigers to 12 consecutive games.

LSU (8-10, 6-6 in SEC) returns to action Thursday at Kentucky at p.m. before hosting Arkansas on Sunday at 5 p.m.

The Gamecocks (17-2, 12-0) won their 29th straight SEC regular-season game, the fifth-longest in league history.

LSU’s highlights on Sunday didn’t materialize until the final eight minutes of play, That’s when the Tigers outscored the Gamecocks 21-12 behind Cherry’s 11 points. Her fast break layup with 24 seconds left made it 64-59, but the Gamecocks wound up leading the last 36 minutes, 43 seconds.

Cherry scored 13 of her game-high total in the second half, while Faustine Aifuwa delivered a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds to go along with 6 blocks.

Senior point guard Khayla Pointer scored 11 points, dished out 6 assists and had 3 steals.

“I think we are able to build off of the fourth quarter,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said. “We are going to still look at how aggressively we played. When the ball goes in the hoop for us and we are scoring the basketball, it allows us to set up our press. When we are not scoring, we can’t set up our full-court pressure and that’s something that is a strength of ours.”

Both teams shot 38% from the field but South Carolina took advantage of a smaller LSU lineup that was without Awa Trasi (who didn’t make the trip), particularly in the second quarter, to outrebound the Tigers 49-32. It led to a 23-7 advantage in second-chance points for the Gamecocks.

LSU forced 20 turnovers and because of Aifuwa’s production, blocked 10 shots.

South Carolina put together a 12-0 run in the first quarter to overcome an early 4-0 deficit, with Destanni Henderson’s fast break layup at the 6:46 mark giving the Gamecocks the lead for good. 

The Tigers, which shot 27.3% (3 of 11) in the first quarter, endured a near seven-minute drought without a field goal until Dominique Davis made a jump shot with 2:10 showing the quarter.

South Carolina, which led 34-22 at halftime, took a 47-31 lead with 2:42 left in the third quarter on Aliyah Boston’s jump shot and the Gamecocks built their biggest lead at 54-38 with 47 seconds left on Henderson’s 3-pointer.

“Sometimes when you take the ball out the person’s hands that really makes a team go, it’s disruptive,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said of her team’s strategy against LSU’s Khayla Pointer.

Henderson scored 12 of her team-high 19 points in the second half, including three 3-pointers, with Boston adding a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds and Zia Cooke 13.

LSU suffered 11 of its 17 turnovers in the first half.

“The first quarter was definitely a poor shooting quarter, as far as percentage,” Fargas said. “When you go 3-11 and you are turning the ball over, it’s going to make for a choppy first half for us. That’s where we have got to be better. It’s four quarters. It’s not for us to be focused for three or three and a half. You have got to be against a team like South Carolina and as we continue through the rest of the schedule, you can’t have off quarters. You have to be locked in every single quarter.”

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