Worsham: Lady Tigers Geared Up For SEC Play
Digital Media Reporter
With four straight wins to end non-conference play and the top scoring defense in the conference, the LSU Lady Tigers have plenty of momentum and confidence as they gear up for SEC play.
Head coach Nikki Fargas likes where her team is after a 9-3 start to the season, as she works to develop a young, hungry team.
“I feel good about our team,” Fargas says. “I feel good about the direction we’re heading. We’re seeing players improving. This maturation process you go through with such a young team and having only one senior, we’re definitely heading in the right direction.”
The Lady Tigers’ calling cards this year have been defense and rebounding. Their 51.2 points per game surrendered are the fewest in the league, and their plus-8.1 rebounding margin per game ranks fifth. Ayana Mitchell (9.8 rebounds per game) and Faustine Aifuwa (6.4 per game) each rank among the league’s top individual rebounders, and Mitchell’s 59.8 percent field goal percentage is second among all SEC players.
“I definitely want to keep focusing on our defensive effort and our ability to rebound the basketball,” Fargas says. “That’s the reason we’ve been in every game and won as many games as we have. We’ve got to execute better in the half-court setting: knocking down open shots, get to the free throw line a little more. Mitchell and Faustine, they need to be double-doubles every night.”
Another area Fargas is focused on is getting more out of her bench.
“I want our bench to be better, have more production from our bench, where there’s a level of trust with our bench so we can go deep into the roster,” she says. “I would like to play our starters, run them pretty hard, then bring in our bench. That’s an area we’re going to keep trying to get better in.”
The highlight of LSU’s 9-3 start was a road win over Florida State. The 58-45 victory – Florida State’s only loss of the season – showcased the ideal Fargas is seeking with her roster: the interior play of Mitchell and Aifuwa complemented by productivity from guards like Shanice Norton, Jaelyn Richard-Harris, and Khayla Pointer, whose 5.0 assists per game rank fifth in the league.
“We’re finding our way within our non-conference schedule, because we’re finding who’s going to be the go-to’s,” Fargas says. “When you lose two of them in one year and with us returning one senior, finding that big three, that’s what we’ve got to focus in on. The Florida State game showcased us having the go-to’s inside, but we also had the perimeter play.”
Now, the Lady Tigers enter a competitive league schedule in an SEC that’s as stacked as ever. The conference features five teams ranked in the latest AP poll, three in the top 25 RPI, and 10 in the RPI Top 100. Regardless of who is on the schedule on any given night, Fargas knows the Lady Tigers will have to be at their best.
And that’s exactly what they plan to do.
“The SEC is so unpredictable,” Fargas says. “You can’t take one night off, not in our league. Everybody is a competitor. Everybody wants to win. Everybody is going to bring the best out in you.”