BATON ROUGE - Senior forward LaSondra Barrett delivered a game-high 22 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists as the 21st-ranked LSU women's basketball team opened up the Nikki Caldwell era in a big way with a 102-42 win over Xavier of Louisiana in an exhibition game Wednesday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Caldwell was well quoted in her hiring day press conference last April about how the Lady Tigers would run the basketball, be unselfish and display an up-tempo style of play. That was on full display on Wednesday night as LSU accounted for 30 assists on 40 made field goals while its full court defensive pressure forced 25 turnovers that led to 38 points.
"I thought Xavier came out here and really played with a lot of courage," said Caldwell. "They were undersized but you couldn't tell with the way they played. I like this team playing with a lot of risk. Even if they don't come up with the steal, they take the tempo of the game and they dictate how the offensive player has to be aware that were going to come at you."
A paid crowd of 3,203 was on hand, exceeding that of past exhibition games. The LSU Marketing and Promotions staff gave away two LSU-Alabama football tickets at halftime. Stephen Keith won a dance-off at halftime and was awarded tickets to arguably the biggest Southeastern Conference football game in history.
"I appreciate them (the fans) coming out tonight," said Caldwell. "It's a great atmosphere for these young ladies because they have worked extremely hard to display and play the way that they did tonight. We are thrilled when we have a great crowd, and I know it's a great feeling for our players as well."
Barrett, a Wade Trophy and Wooden Award candidate, finished three rebounds shy of a triple-double and she shot 7-of-10 from the floor. Sophomore forward Theresa Plaisance poured in 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, and freshman Krystal Forthan chipped in 14 points in her first collegiate game. Every player who saw action got into the scoring act, including Shanece McKinney, whose free throws put the Lady Tigers over the century mark.
"LaSondra came out and really made a statement," said Caldwell. "I've been on her pretty hard regarding how she needs to represent this team and she needs to represent it in a big time way and tonight she did it. She did everything that was asked of her."
LSU opened the game with a 14-3 run before the Gold Nuggets rallied to within five points, 29-24 with 5:38 remaining in the first half. Xavier knocked down three treys during the stretch but a 14-0 Lady Tiger run keyed by the freshman sensation Forthan gave LSU a commanding 45-29 lead into the locker room. Forthan scored eight straight points during the spurt.
Barrett came out of halftime with nine points in the first three minutes and the Gold Nuggets fell into foul trouble quickly. A 23-5 run in the first eight minutes of the second half pushed the lead to over 30 points. Taylor Turnbow's layup and free throw made it 68-34 with 12:23 to play.
The Lady Tigers closed the final 3:09 of the contest with a 14-0 run. Plaisance was dominant with two paint shots and a three-pointer from the top of the key during the spurt.
LSU shot a blistering 58.8 percent (40-of-68) from the floor and held the Gold Nuggets to 24.6 percent (15-of-61) for the game. Xavier managed only five made field goals in the second stanza. In addition, the Lady Tigers got 57 points from their bench.
LSU officially opens the season at Wichita State on Nov. 14 before facing No. 10 Georgetown in the home opener on Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. Tickets for the contest are on sale now at www.LSUtix.net or by calling the LSU Athletic Ticket Office at 225-578-2184.
Head Coach Nikki Caldwell
LSU vs. Xavier
On the game...
"I thought Xavier came out here and really played with a lot of courage. They were undersized but you couldn't tell with the way they played. They really did a great job at attacking us and forcing us early in the first half with 11 turnovers. Our defense is where we have to get better especially when your placing a team that has players who can shoot the three ball. Those are things that we defiantly adjusted in the second half and those are some of the things that LaSondra (Barrett) was talking about. We got to adjust during the course of the game so I am very pleased with that aspect of it but initially we have to be better and not wait until half to make that kind of adjustment."
On the teams tempo and getting 13 steals...
"I like this team playing with a lot of risk because they have to be risk takers. Even if they don't come up with the steal they take the tempo of the game and they dictate how the offensive player has to be aware that we're going to come at you. There are a lot of times we trap and we don't get the rotation but we're making people speed up so we will continue to get better in full court pressure which will then allow us to take time off the clock."
On LaSondra Barrett's game...
"LaSondra came out and really made a statement. I've been on her pretty hard regarding how she needs to represent this team and she needs to represent it in a big time way and tonight she did it. She did everything that was asked of her, but the one thing that will set her apart is her ability to make other people look better and she did that tonight. She got (Theresa) Plaisance some easy looks and she also got Krystal (Forthan) some easy looks. She can get her shot anytime but the question is, is she going to be that offensive threat for her teammates by getting them shots and she did that tonight."
On Krystal Forthan...
"I don't have to worry about Krystal offensively. I just worry about her defensively because at times she doesn't have that same aggressive play as she does on the offensive end. It's in her, but we just have to get her enjoying playing on the defensive end. She can score multiple ways. She can shoot the three, and she can come off the bounce. I like that we are able to change her up. Courtney (Jones) is one of those other versatile players along with LaSondra. I was really pleased with our bench play tonight. I thought they really stepped up and gave us that spurt that we needed when we were kind of at a lull. I told them it doesn't matter who starts, it's all about what we do in between that 40 minutes and today our bench really played well."
On Destini Hughes and Jeanne Kenney...
"I see Destini really taking command of this team at the point position. She did a great job of taking care of the basketball considering how many minutes she played. Also, her ability to defend helps generate our offense. She is a great offensive player. She looks to distribute the basketball first. We have been challenging her in practice to shoot the basketball, so we have to get her out of that mentality but I like the way she runs this team. Then we have Jeanne as her counter partner. She can take some of those possessions all for Destini and we can move those two around and let Destini play off the ball and move Jeanne to the point."
On the atmosphere...
"This team has been out in the community and we have really wanted to get that buzz surrounding this women's basketball team because I know the fans have always been there. I appreciate them coming out tonight. It's a great atmosphere for these young ladies because they have worked extremely hard to display and play the way that they did tonight. We are thrilled when we have a great crowd and I know it's a great feeling for our players as well."
LSU Player Quotes
Sr. F LaSondra Barrett
On the first game...
"It is always fun when you're playing at the level that we did and when you correct your mistakes. We started off with missed assignments and break downs but we corrected that at half time and came back. There is a lot of stuff that we have to work on as far as defense but we are learning and we are working hard and we have to continue to communicate better. We have to continue that start through the media time outs and string it out along those segments."
On scoring 102 points...
"The tempo is a lot faster and our shot selection was better. It was something we have been working on in preseason workouts and practice. When you work on that with transitioning and with spacing a lot better you will get better shots and better ball movements. That is the key to getting easy baskets. Transition points and offense rebounds it was our coaches stress a lot."
On the improvements the team needs...
"There is a lot we have to work on but one thing about this team is that we are willing to get better. We corrected our mistakes and we came back. At half time we knew we had to crash the boards and guard the three balls a lot better. We corrected our mistakes and cut down on turnovers."
On shooting more threes...
"With this coaching staff I am able to do a lot more and have a lot more freedom around the perimeter. That enhances my game and makes me more available for my teammates. It makes us more versatile. It is not just me. We are a very versatile team and will make us more dangerous."
Fr. F Krystal Forthan
On her first game at LSU...
"I like the atmosphere. It was very unique and different. I was nervous in the beginning but I picked it up. I realized I have to play within my team and play within myself. That nervous part went away in the beginning."
On out-rebounding Xavier...
"We are all rebounding. Everyone is hustling and getting all the boards and that's how we can get more points."