LSU Falls to Wildcats at the PMAC

Raigyne Moncrief scored 15 points in the loss to Kentucky.
Raigyne Moncrief scored 15 points in the loss to Kentucky.
Chris Parent
Chase Wales
Chase Wales
Communications Student Assistant

BATON ROUGE, La. --- The LSU women’s basketball team suffered a 55-42 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats here at the Maravich Center Thursday evening. LSU fell to 14-5 overall; 3-3 in the SEC, while Kentucky improved to 13-6 on the year and 4-2 in conference action.

Raigyne Moncrief’s 15 points and five rebounds led the Lady Tigers’ effort, followed by Chloe Jackson’s 13 points and five rebounds.

Kentucky had two players record double-doubles as Evelyn Akhator posted a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds and Taylor Murray scored 11 points to go along with a game-high 13 rebounds.

The Wildcats took advantage of LSU missing their first seven field goals to kick the game off with a quick 12-0 start.

LSU scored its first points with 3:14 left in the first period and Kentucky ended the quarter with a 17-6 lead. Their six first-quarter points marked LSU’s lowest scoring output in any quarter this season.

Jackson opened up the second quarter with a quick jumper before LSU faced another scoring drought that wasn’t broken until an Ayana Mitchell layup with 4:08 remaining in the first half.

The Lady Tigers slowly climbed their way back into the game, outscoring the Wildcats in the second quarter to cut their halftime lead to 23-16, LSU’s lowest-scoring half of the season.

LSU cut Kentucky’s lead to just five points early in the third quarter but Kentucky pulled ahead and increased their lead to as high as 18 with 1:22 left in the third quarter.

After being outscored 19-10 in the third quarter, LSU opened the fourth quarter on an 8-4 run and cut the Wildcat lead to 10, but couldn’t keep the momentum going against Kentucky’s resilient defense.

LSU, which leads the nation in steals, registered nine steals that contributed to 15 Kentucky turnovers, but the Lady Tigers struggled offensively on the night and were outscored in the paint, 40-22. LSU did manage to hold Kentucky to its second-lowest scoring total this season, and its lowest in an SEC contest.

The Wildcats also controlled the glass on both sides of the ball, out-rebounding LSU by a 45-30 margin. Kentucky’s persistence in the paint helped them maintain a sizeable lead on a night where they were only 2-of-16 from three-point range.

The Lady Tigers will face No. 25 Texas A&M in College Station on Sunday. Tipoff is slated for 4 p.m., and the game will be carried live by the SEC Network. LSU returns to the PMAC on Jan. 29 against Arkansas, and that game will also be broadcast by the SEC Network. It will be the second meeting this season with the Razorbacks as the Lady Tigers won the earlier contest in Fayetteville, 53-52.

NOTES & TRENDS
• Starters for LSU were Chloe Jackson, Rina Hill, Alexis Hyder, Raigyne Moncrief & Jasmine Rhodes. This is the first game this season that Rhodes has started and this is the third different starting lineup for the Lady Tigers.
Raigyne Moncrief scored 15 points for her 17th double-digit scoring effort this season; the 54th of her career.
Raigyne Moncrief is just 10 points from her 1,000th career point. She will become the 32nd Lady Tiger to enter the 1,000-point club.
• The loss to Kentucky snaps a three-game winning streak over the Wildcats at the PMAC. This is also the first loss at home to a non-Top 5 team for LSU.
Chloe Jackson scored 13 points to extend her double-digit scoring streak to 10 games. She has scored in double figures in 15 of the 19 games this season.
• With the loss, LSU is now 32-15 over Kentucky in the series history. UK has now won the last three-straight games.
• LSU is now 14-5 overall; 3-3 in the SEC, and this is LSU’s first loss of the season to a team that is not currently ranked in the Top 25. UK was ranked for the first nine weeks of the season, but were not ranked coming into today’s game.
• The 42 points by LSU was a low for the Lady Tigers this season. The previous low was 48 points at No. 5 Mississippi State.

LSU HEAD COACH NIKKI FARGAS
“You know, at the end we talk about holding opponents under 50. In the first half, the team only had 23 points. Towards the end in the fourth we had to foul but in the third they went on a 19-10 run. You’re not going to win a lot of games scoring 42 points. We have to go back and look at the play-action we called. I’ll look at that from a coaching standpoint. But the two things we talked about was paint points, and we didn't have an inside attack. We missed a lot of high-low action here. I thought we could’ve gotten the ball inside. But also, I thought that our offensive execution wasn't where it needed to be. When you put up 55 attempts and they put up 56, that's a pretty good indicator that this could be a game that can be in the 50s where you want them to be if you’re not going to the free throw line. Both teams were taking care of the basketball and not turning it over and being patient. I thought defensively we had some good moments but our offensive execution hurt us tonight.”

On it being tough after getting down early…
“We had opportunities to score in the paint and hit wide-open jump shots and we struggled. I kept telling the team there’s going to be those games where you struggle offensively, but let’s get on the offensive glass. I thought we failed in that area. When you miss as many shots as we did—you’re talking about 37 shots—you want to have about 16 offensive rebounds. That's been something that we have been able to do in the games we won and tonight we only had seven. We got out-rebounded by 15 tonight.”

“One thing you can say about this group is we are not going to quit. They are still going to give me what they have in the tank. We have to be able to do that as a team. When we are pressing and trying to get back in the game, it exhausts some of those players and we need everybody. When we play nine players, nine players have to give us something.”

KENTUCKY HEAD COACH MATTHEW MITCHELL
“I’m just super proud of our players. I’m happy for them. They worked really hard the last few weeks to try and improve. We’ve come one million miles defensively and giving great effort. I thought we did two things really well. Outrebound LSU, and to not let them turn you over one million times. We did a really good job on the boards tonight, and we committed seven or eight less turnovers than what they cause on average. Our players really prepared well, and I’m just ecstatic for them. They earned this victory.”

On what he believes is the biggest difference in this team since their Texas A&M loss…
“I think everyone really just got focused in. We tried to talk about what every person could do and their role on the team. I think the leadership of this team coming from Evelyn (Akhator) has made a big difference. All the kids have come to practice with good effort, good enthusiasm and good energy. They really played tough. You know we went down under 10 when there was really a lot of heat on us. I’m proud that we kept our poise when a lot of teams could have panicked. We had a great start, and we just kept it going all night. It was a big win for us.”

On how it felt getting a double-double from Taylor Murray…
“Well, it was great. If you don’t make threes against LSU, you may not score a lot of points because they do a great job in being disruptive. For us to control our defensive backboard was key. We tried to keep them out of transition which we did tonight, and we had to keep them off the offensive glass. Taylor had some monster rebounds, really tough. It was very key. The backboard was huge in this game tonight, and I was so proud to see the 15 rebound edge for the Wildcats.”

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