Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
BATON ROUGE, LA: The 11th ranked Lady Tigers hosted the 17th ranked Florida Gators in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Sunday afternoon with 2nd place in the SEC on the line.
The Gators had defeated LSU earlier in the season in a thrilling 73-72 victory in Gainesville. Since then, Kim Mulkey no doubt had this rematch circled on the schedule and this time there would be a different final result as LSU won this thrilling contest, 66-61 in front of 13,620 loud Tiger fans. The 4th largest crowd in LSU Women's Basketball history.
“The message was that since we don’t play again for four days, we had the opportunity to be in sole possession of the second ranked spot in the SEC,” Head Coach Kim Mulkey said her message was to the team before the game. “I don’t think the seniors have ever been in that position. The message was that today could be one of your most memorable games in basketball.”
“Y’all know what I preach,” Head Coach Kim Mulkey said. “Field goal percentage defense and rebound the ball. That’s how we won today. We didn’t shoot well today.”
LSU only shot 33% from the floor hitting 22-66 while going 0-8 from behind the three point arc. But the Lady Tigers went 22-32 from the free throw line for 69%. They also forced Florida into 15 turnovers while outrebounding the Gators, 49-45.
Alexis Morris led the Tigers in scoring with 20 points. Autumn Newby added 13 points and had a very solid game before she fouled out late in the contest. Faustine Aifuwa scored 10 points and blocked two huge shots late in the game. Khayla Pointer contributed 7 points on the day as Florida did a good job at defending her throughout the contest. Hannah Gusters and Jailin Cherry both finished with 6 points each while Ryann Payne scored 4 points.
The first five minutes of the contest resembled the first meeting between these two teams, as we would find the score even at 8-8 with 5:06 left in the first period.
LSU made the first run of the game, scoring seven straight to take a 15-8 lead at the 2:04 mark. But the Gators responded with four points in a row, cutting the lead to 15-12 with 35 seconds left on the clock.
Ryann Payne would draw a foul with one second left, hitting both of her free throws to put the Lady Tigers up 17-12 at the end of the first period.
The Lady Tigers would start the second period ice cold, missing several opportunities to score, allowing Florida to cut the lead to one, 17-16 with 8:18 to go.
After Alexis Morris sank two free throws, Florida's Nina Rickards would hit a three pointer from the top of the key to tie the ball game at 19-19 at the 6:47 mark.
LSU would once again shift things into another gear going on a 6-1 run taking a 25-20 lead. But surprise, surprise,
Florida responded with back to back baskets to pull to within 25-24 with 3:03 left in the second period.
Zipporah Broughton would sink a jumper with 1:10 left to give Florida their first lead of the game as well as the lead at the half, 26-25.
The Lady Tigers failed to score during the last 4:31 of the second period, missing their last six attempts from the floor. Alexis Morris led the Tigers at the half with 10 points. Aifuwa added 6 points, while Newby scored 4. The big stat of the first half was Florida's ability to defensively hold Khayla Pointer to only one point over the first 20 minutes.
The third period began with a fast and furious pace as both teams pushed the ball, running the floor while trading baskets in a back and forth contest.
With 4:52 left in the period, Florida would cling to a two points advantage, 35-33 at the officials timeout. As we returned
to play, Khayla Pointer found herself at the line on two quick occasions, sinking all four free throws to help LSU regain the lead, 36-35 at the 4:22 mark.
With 1:57 left in the period and the score even at 40-40, Ryann Payne sank two free throws to put the Lady Tigers up
42-40 before Hannah Gusters would bank in a second change layup to give LSU a 44-40 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Lady Gators started the fourth period scoring two quick baskets to even up the game again, 44-44 with 8:56 to go in the contest.
The see-saw battle continued as each team took turns taking then losing the lead before Autumn Newby banked in a second chance layup drawing a foul. Newby sank the free throw giving the Ben-Gals a 53-50 lead with 4:51 left in the game. So far we have had nine ties and ten lead changes in this classic SEC battle.
The Lady Tigers extended their lead when Faustine Aifuwa scored and drew a foul. Aifuwa missed her bonus point opportunity, but the Tigers now held a 55-50 lead with 3:41 left to go.
With LSU leading 58-52, Kiara Smith would score on a layup before Rickards hit a jumper to cut the LSU lead to 58-56 with 1:07 left in the contest.
Alexis Morris sank one of two free throw attempts putting the Lady Tigers up by three, 59-56 with 38 seconds left. Aifuwa would come up with two huge back to back shot blocks to give the purple and gold back possession of the ball. Morris was fouled and sank both free throws putting LSU up by five, 61-56 with 26 seconds left.
But Florida refused to fold as Faith Dut responded with a three pointer from the deep near corner to cut the lead to two, 61-59 with 18 ticks remaining. Each team would trade another set of free throws as the Lady Tigers held a 63-61 lead with ten seconds left.
Alexis Morris would sink one of two free throw attempts giving the Lady Tigers a three point advantage, 64-61 with
nine seconds remaining.
Morris sank two more charity shots with three seconds left to give LSU a huge 66-61 victory.
With the win, LSU is now 23-4 overall and 11-3 in the SEC, in 2nd place only behind South Carolina.
LSU will host Alabama in the PMAC on Thursday, Feb. 24th at 7:00pm CT. It will be the final regular season home game of 2022.
Photos Below By: Jonathan Mailhes