Lady Tigers Take Down No. 23 Texas A&M
Communications Student Assistant
BATON ROUGE, La. --- The LSU women’s basketball team defeated No. 23 Texas A&M, 67-63, here at the Maravich Center for the annual “Pink” game Thursday evening. It was LSU’s first win over a Top 25 opponent this season.
LSU improved to 18-8 overall; 7-6 in the SEC, while Texas A&M fell to 19-7 overall and 9-4 in league action. The Lady Tigers are now 12-3 at the PMAC this season with only one home game remaining on the schedule – a rematch with Vanderbilt on Feb. 26.
The victory split the season series against A&M at one apiece and snapped the Aggies’ three-game winning streak over the Lady Tigers.
Raigyne Moncrief led the Lady Tigers with 23 points, which included five consecutive free throws in the final 23 seconds of the game to seal the victory. Moncrief was 7-of-8 from the line and also registered four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Chloe Jackson scored 17 points and added two rebounds, two steals and a block. Alexis Hyder had 12 points to go along with a game-high nine rebounds and a career-tying five steals. Ayana Mitchell also scored 12 points for the Lady Tigers and was 5-of-5 from the field and hit both of her free-throw attempts. Mitchell also hauled in five rebounds.
Texas A&M’s leading scorer was Khaalia Hillsman, who had a game-high 24 points. Taylor Cooper was the only other Aggie in double digits with 12 points. She led A&M with six rebounds, while Curtyce Knox dished out 10 assists.
Rina Hill got the ball rolling with a quick jumper to kick off a first quarter in which five different Lady Tigers scored. LSU began the game on a 6-2 run before Texas A&M scored eight unanswered points, but the Lady Tigers fought back and cut the deficit to two when Jackson’s buzzer-beating jumper ended the quarter at 16-14 in favor of the Aggies.
A closely contested second quarter saw eight lead changes over the first five-and-a-half minutes before the scoring began to tilt in favor of LSU. With 4:31 remaining in the first half, LSU went on an 8-0 run that increased its lead to seven. The Aggies’ Cooper responded with four quick points of her own before a deep two-point jumper from Moncrief with four seconds left gave the Lady Tigers a 34-29 halftime lead.
The Aggies came out firing to open the second half, going on a 9-0 run to give them a 38-34 lead. LSU quickly closed the gap, leveling the game at 40 apiece, but had no answer for Hillsman in the paint as the A&M center scored four unanswered points. The Lady Tigers completely took over the quarter from that point forward, however, as a couple of clutch steals led to an 8-2 run to close the third quarter with LSU on top, 49-46.
LSU reached two separate leads of six points in the fourth quarter, but a trio of three-point shots kept the Aggies in the game as LSU’s lead was cut to one with 4:42 remaining. Moncrief recorded her third steal of the night with just over two minutes left in the game which led to a layup from Mitchell to give the Lady Tigers a three-point lead. Texas A&M drove down the court and answered with a layup of their own. After an offensive foul on Hyder with less than 30 seconds remaining, Texas A&M had possession of the ball but the Lady Tigers forced a critical turnover which led to free throws for Moncrief, who went 1-for-2 to raise the LSU lead to two points. The Lady Tigers’ stifling defense forced an errant shot from Hillsman that was rebounded by Moncrief, who was immediately fouled and made both of her free throws to increase LSU’s lead to four points. The Aggies quickly sprinted down the court and fed the ball to Hillsman, who converted this time around, scoring what would be the final field goal of the game. With less than two seconds remaining, another foul on Moncrief led her to knock down two more free throws, sealing the 67-63 victory for Lady Tigers.
Moncrief’s clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch was part of a 13-for-16 night from the line for LSU. The Lady Tigers forced 23 turnovers with 13 steals, leading to 25 points off turnovers. While LSU largely had no answer to Hillsman under the glass for most of the game, the Lady Tigers held their own in both rebounding and points in the paint. The key to success was 13 offensive rebounds for the Lady Tigers that led to nine second-chance points.
The Lady Tigers will be on the road for two of the final three games. LSU meets Georgia in Athens on Sunday, Feb. 19, and is at Auburn on Feb. 23 before closing out the regular season with a rematch against Vanderbilt on Feb. 26 at the PMAC. That will be Senior Day for four-year Lady Tigers Rina Hill and Jasmine Rhodes and transfer Alexis Hyder. The SEC Tournament is set for March 1-5 at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.
NOTES & TRENDS
• Starters for LSU were Chloe Jackson, Rina Hill, Alexis Hyder, Raigyne Moncrief & Jasmine Rhodes.
• Raigyne Moncrief scored 23 points to extend her double-digit scoring streak to 10 games. She has scored in double figures in 24 games this season; and in 61 career games. This is the ninth 20-point game of the season.
• Alexis Hyder led LSU with five steals, tying her career high.
• LSU forced 23 turnovers and scored 25 points off the miscues. This is the 15th time this season that LSU has forced 20 or more turnovers in a game. The Lady Tigers are 13-2 this year when forcing 20+ turnovers this season. They are 7-0 in SEC games that the opponent has turned the ball over 20-plus times.
• This is LSU’s first win over a nationally-ranked opponent this season. It is the first since LSU defeated then-No. 24 Tennessee on Feb. 21, 2016. That game was also played at the PMAC.
• With the win, LSU evened the series at 11-11 against Texas A&M. LSU also snapped Texas A&M’s three-game winning streak over the Lady Tigers.
• LSU is now 6-4 in games played against the Aggies at the PMAC.
LSU Head Coach Nikki Fargas
“I think the effort to guard Texas A&M was really there tonight. We didn’t do a lot of our full court press, but I thought in our half-court defense we really did a nice job of trying to disrupt them and we changed up by trapping more than we usually do which allowed us to force them to turn the ball over. We try to get one point per turnover and so for us to have 25 (points off turnovers) tonight that was huge for us. I thought when Shanice Norton came in during the second half, she really did a nice job defensively just changing the tone of the game for us.”
On Alexis Hyder and Ayana Mitchell working together to slow down Khaalia Hillsman…
“We went to more of a power look with our two bigs, and for this game to have them on the floor was key because when we’ve had foul trouble that’s when we’ve struggled against teams that have had good post players. Tonight, we played extremely smart, we did some good things and we made the plays that we needed to down the stretch to win the game.”
On Ayana Mitchell’s move to score with 1:59 left in the game to give LSU a 3-point lead…
“It was key. Our inability the other night (against Vanderbilt) in the paint I thought really hurt us, but tonight we were able to get the ball inside and score at a high percentage. Our post game really came through tonight. They really stepped up and did a nice job of executing and giving us another option. We also are going to continue to lean on our guard play as far as their ability to jump shoot. I think that will be key, but tonight, another thing we did nice is we knocked down our free throws.”
Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair
“I have Curtyce Knox, our point guard with us. I always have a rule, anytime a game is lost, my point guard always comes because the head coach and the point guard have to take accountability for what went on out there on the court. I think the kid did a lot of great things out there for us. At the same time, we just didn’t get the job done tonight.”
“I said before the ballgame to our team, ‘This will go down to the last two minutes because all of our games have.’ When we fought back twice in the second half, I thought we were doing a heck of a job. Uncharacteristically of our team, we made a lot of very selfish plays during the ballgame instead of hitting the right person. That’s why you have 23 turnovers, against a 2-3 zone. Give credit to their big three as all three of theirs played really well. I had two of mine that I couldn’t keep out of foul trouble.”
“Eventually I think we wore down. They were doing a better job than us of help defense, and we were trying to thread the needle. Again, our defense not being able to guard a simple high-ball screen was inexcusable. They were shooting open jump shot, after open jump shot, after open jump shot. Eventually, you have kids as good as their top-three, they’re going to get some in there. Give them credit, this makes up for their game that they lost at Vanderbilt, and the game they lost at our place where we only led for thirty-one seconds the entire ball game.”
For all of the latest news and information on Lady Tiger basketball, visit www.LSUsports.net/womensbasketball. Fans also can follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/LSUwbkb, @LSUwbkb and @LSUNikkiFargas on Twitter, @LSUwbkb and @LSUNikkiFargas on Instagram.