LEXINGTON, Ky. – Raigyne Moncrief racked up a SEC season’s best 19 points coupled with a career-high tying nine rebounds, but the No. 14 LSU women’s basketball team was handed a 63-56 defeat to start the second half of the SEC season by No. 13 Kentucky Sunday at Memorial Coliseum.
The Lady Tigers (17-5, 6-3 SEC) nearly overcame a 15-point deficit during the last 11-plus minutes. LSU got as close as four points inside the final minute but ultimately had their three-game winning streak snapped. Kentucky (17-5, 5-4 SEC) picked up its third straight victory over the Lady Tigers in Lexington.
“When we look at the game – what we needed to do on the offensive end was take care of the basketball,” head coach Nikki Caldwell said. “That was an issue, and Kentucky capitalized off of our turnovers. We also had a lot of missed layups. One of the things about Kentucky that’s been a staple for them is they rely on their defense, and their defense did a good job of disrupting us especially in the first half. By doing so, that allowed them to get those transition baskets.”
For Moncrief, she collected 14 of her 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting and eight of her nine rebounds during the second half. The freshmen guard also dished out four assists over a season-high 35 minutes.
Theresa Plaisance, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, battled her way to 13 points and six rebounds. It was Plaisance’s 12th straight game in double figures.
Shanece McKinney tacked on eight points, nine rebounds and a season-high four blocked shots. She has registered 11 rejections over her last four outings.
Off the bench, DaShawn Harden secured nine points on 4-of-8 from the floor. She also hauled in five rebounds and added two steals.
Kentucky put together a balanced attack as six players came away with six points or more. Bria Goss led the way with 11 points followed by Jennifer O’Neill’s 10 points. DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker notched eight points apiece and the duo combined for 15 of UK’s 36 rebounds.
As a team, LSU compiled a 20-for-62 shooting performance and misfired on 10 of its 11 attempts from three-point territory. The 32.3 percent shooting ratio was the team’s third lowest output on the season. The Lady Tigers were an efficient 15-of-18 at the free throw line.
Kentucky garnered a 21-for-57 effort from the floor aided by eight triples courtesy of seven players. The Wildcats made 13-of-18 at the charity stripe and scored 25 of the game’s 40 points off of turnovers. UK also held a 23-14 advantage in bench points.
LSU scored the first six points of the game during the first 97 seconds as Plaisance and McKinney connected for layup followed by a pair of McKinney free throws.
Kentucky snatched the momentum and pieced together 21 of the next 25 points which opened with a 13-point flurry. The Wildcats drained five treys during the 10:19 stretch and grabbed a 21-10 advantage at the 7:37 mark.
LSU’s offensive was able to muster only six field goals in the opening 20 minutes but was able to stay within striking distance on the strength of an 11-for-12 effort at the foul line. McKinney tallied all eight of her points during the first half, and Kentucky carried a 32-23 lead into the locker room.
“At halftime, we talked about the areas that caused us trouble,” Caldwell said. “We wanted to be more aggressive off the bounce. I thought Raigyne really set the tone for us in doing so. We needed to get defensive stops and needed to be able to set our defense. When we were able to do that, I thought we were able to disrupt their offensive execution.”
The Wildcats took their largest lead at 48-33 with 11:33 remaining before the Lady Tigers began to mount a rally.
LSU ripped off nine of the next 11 points to get back to within 50-42 at the 8:04 mark. Harden kickstarted the run with a traditional three-point play followed by three consecutive Moncrief buckets.
Kentucky turned to Makayla Epps who provided three straight field goals and stretched the advantage back to 57-45 with 5:10 left. It would prove to be UK’s final basket as LSU’s defense clamped down which enabled the Lady Tigers to make one final push.
Plaisance and Harden combined for LSU’s last 11 points. A Harden jumper cut the LSU deficit down to 60-56 with 19.4 seconds on the clock.
The Lady Tigers had two chances inside the final minute to get within one possession game. However, Kentucky nailed 4-of-6 at the line during the last 24.1 seconds to tuck away the 63-56 win. F
LSU returns home Thursday to take on Missouri. Tip time is scheduled for 7 p.m. from the Maravich Center. It’s one of two remaining regular season contests for the Lady Tigers not on television.
The LSU Sports Radio Network will carry the game on Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge. Live audio also will be available for Geaux Zone subscribers at www.LSUsports.net/live. Patrick Wright, the voice of the Lady Tigers, has the radio call.
For all of the latest news and information on Lady Tiger basketball, visit www.lsusports.net/womensbasketball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsuwbkb along with @lsuwbkb and @NikkiCaldwell on Twitter.