LSU women’s basketball team hopes whatever happened last weekend in Las Vegas stays in Vegas.
A bumpy 0-and-2 showing in the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout made for an inauspicious debut for the Tigers. They look to make amends in their home opener Friday at 6 p.m. against Central Florida (1-0) at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“That wasn’t who we are,” LSU senior guard Jailin Cherry said. “We got away from our identity. These last couple of days in practice we’ve been establishing our identity, playing defense and rebounding and becoming that team who we were. That’s we’ve always been.”
There weren’t a lot of postcard memories from Vegas for LSU which never led in either of its losses to Brigham Young (67-51) and West Virginia (62-42).
The Tigers were hindered by poor offensive play, averaging just 46.5 points on 32.4 percent shooting from the field – including 21.4 percent from 3-point range.
“I thought we were pretty ready for it,” Cherry said. “When we watch film you kind of underestimate your opponent. That’s what we did and weren’t ready. We weren’t prepared. It was kind of shocking.”
LSU senior center Faustine Aifuwa averaged 12 points and eight rebounds but didn’t get a lot of offensive support for the Tigers to be in contention in the second half of either game.
Slow starts were a common theme with LSU being tied once with Brigham Young at 6-all for 21 seconds.
The Cougars went on to lead 34-20 at halftime en route to their 16-point victory, while the Mountaineers turned a 16-10 first-quarter effort into a 31-20 halftime advantage.
“I don’t want to play catch up,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said. “I don’t want to play where we’re looking at the score and it’s a low scoring game and OK, ‘when are we going to get our offense going’. We’re putting a lot of pressure on our defense to be really good and not miss any assignments.
LSU’s lack of productivity stressed a defense that yielded 64.5 points, 48.9 percent shooting from the field – including a 55.6 clip from 3-point range.
The Tigers were solid in one area, though, and were a plus-five in turnovers where they forced an average of 20 turnovers but were unable to convert steals into points.
Senior point guard Khayla Pointer averaged 8 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists and senior forward Awa Trasi 7.5 points and 6 rebounds.
“The name of the game also is offensive execution,” Fargas said. “We’ve got to do a much better job of playing together, setting and using screens, making the extra pass. I felt like we were very anxious and quick-shot the ball way too many times in the shot clock. We’ve got to settle in to working together, making sure we’ve got ball reversal, making sure we’ve got post touches and I think that’s going to really help our offensive execution.”
Central Florida won its season opener – 60-34 – over Virginia by overcoming an eight-point, first-quarter deficit to grab a 33-23 halftime lead and 45-27 advantage through three quarters.
The Knights, who outscored the Cavaliers 28-7 in points off 30 turnovers, were led by the guard tandem Diamond Battle (17 points, 7 assists) and Alisha Lewis (13 points).
“When you’re playing a team like Central Florida who plays a 3-2 (zone), they’re very aggressive in it and like to turn you over, they’ve got really strong post play from last year’s team,” Fargas said. “(It’s) a team that has great 3-point shooters, so we’re going to have to be locked into our scouting report defense.”