BATON ROUGE - Bianca Lutley scored a career-high 19 points and preseason All-SEC guard Adrienne Webb knocked down a clutch three in the final two minutes as the LSU women's basketball team rallied from a six-point deficit to beat Wichita State, 72-70, in the season-opener for both teams on Sunday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
A crowd of 2,509 in what felt like an NCAA postseason environment watched as the Lady Tigers opened the second-year of the Nikki Caldwell era with an intense and physical game.
LSU (1-0) defeated a non-conference regular season opponent for the eighth straight time dating back to last season, and it was the second consecutive year the Lady Tigers gutted out a season-opener against the Shockers (0-1), who were picked to finish second in a solid Missouri Valley Conference.
"A lot of credit goes to them (Wichita State) because coach (Jody) Adams really had them ready to come in here and win," said Caldwell. "They executed when they needed to and did the little things. For us coming away with the win, we will appreciate the win but there are a lot of things we will have to work on."
Lutley, making just the fifth start of her career, exploded for 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 7-of-8 shots from the free throw line. She scored six points during an 8-0 LSU run to start the game.
"She has definitely been known for her offensive skills," said Caldwell. "Bianca really stepped up in a big way today in being the aggressive guard. I told her that she has to be ready to play every position because she brings that versatility to our team."
Webb added 17 points and buried two threes, including one with 2:28 to go that put the Lady Tigers up for good, 65-61. LSU's barrage of backcourt scoring continued with Jeanne Kenney reaching 13 points.
In her first career start, Theresa Plaisance pulled down 15 rebounds with 12 of those coming on the offensive glass. The 15 boards represented the most by an LSU player since Kristen Morris grabbed 15 in the 2009 NCAA Tournament first round against Green Bay.
The Lady Tigers led by as many as eight points in the first half, but Wichita State chipped away at the lead. Jessica Diamond's three with 0:03 remaining in the stanza sliced the score to 35-34.
The Shockers quickly took their first lead right out of halftime. Alex Harden buried two jumpers and Wichita State built a 49-43 advantage with 11:53 left in the game.
The two teams combined for 48 fouls. Lutley, LSU's best penetrator on the floor, took advantage of the foul situation. She drained two free throws at the 9:03 mark then made a paint jumper that cut the deficit to 57-55.
LSU's backcourt leadership trio then took over. Lutley found Webb for a shot that made it 59-58 with 4:39 remaining. One possession later, Kenney drove through the lane for a nifty layup that gave LSU its first lead since the first minute of the second half. Webb followed when she swished home her second trey of the afternoon, making it a 65-61 contest.
"I think we had just run an action we call duck and Jeanne came off the ball screen and my person hedged to her, so I was wide open for that shot," said Webb. "I knew I could hit it so I decided to take it."
Diamond kept the Shockers' hopes alive in the final minute with a couple of baskets. Chyna Turner's three with 0:02 to go cut the score to 72-70, but LSU inbounded the ball as the clock expired.
Diamond and Michelle Price led Wichita State with 13 points apiece.
The Shockers benefited from 18 second-chance points and were narrowly out-rebounded by the Lady Tigers, 35-30. They out-shot LSU 48 percent to 40 percent, but 25 turnovers Shockers proved to be costly. It led to 32 points on LSU's end of the floor.
In what has become a knack for Lady Tiger teams, LSU took advantage of the free throw line, burying 20-of-30. It represented the third consecutive game that LSU made over 20 free throws dating back to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Sunday's contest was LSU's lone home game in November. The Lady Tigers depart for Hampton, Va., on Thursday in preparation for a 6 p.m. CT Friday tipoff against the Pirates. LSU will then travel directly to Washington, D.C., and play Georgetown on Monday night.
LSU vs. Wichita State
November 11, 2012
LSU Head Coach Nikki Caldwell
"A lot of credit goes to them because coach (Jody) Adams really had them ready to come in here and win. They executed when they needed to and did the little things. I thought they played extremely hard and those hustle plays changed the pace of the game. For us coming away with the win, we will appreciate the win but a lot of things we will have to work on. We were challenged in the high post corner action against our match up (zone) and we have to be better on the glass. Not being able to rebound was a big challenge for us. We are going to take this game and really dissect it and in a hurry get better."
On the rebounding battle...
"We have been addressing rebounding way before halftime. What we do is put a bubble on the rim so that when the scout team takes a shot it will always be a miss. For whatever reason in the second half we also were a bit bigger because our bigs were able to play. I'm proud of our guards because when all four of our bigs were in trouble I looked at them and told them they will have to hold it down and they did. In the end they were able to come away with the win."
On the foul trouble...
"I'm going to chalk it up as it being early. I think once you get into the season it seems to loosen up a bit. We like more of a physical game and we would like the game to stay on pace and not be so disruptive. We are going to work on not fouling as much and stopping the game but I think it's an early situation."
On Bianca Lutley's performance...
"She has definitely been known for her offensive skills and she can play defense when she wants too. I'll tell you this; Bianca really stepped up in a big way today in being the aggressive guard. I told her that she has to be ready to play every position because she brings that versatility to our team."
On fouling less in the second half...
"I think they made more shots in the second half, but defensively we tried to pack it in a little more but they were exploiting us in the corner and high and mid post area. They were getting some easy looks against our defense, which didn't allow us to foul."
On the freshmen performances...
"We have to keep Derreyal Youngblood in the game and she can't continue to get in foul trouble when she has limited minutes. I think that she really did some positive things on the defensive end. She got a deflection which lead to a steal and offensively we have to bring her along. Danielle Ballard did a great job on the offensive glass and she had four offensive rebounds. We saw she had a little toughness in her, and I felt comfortable playing her with our veteran squad."
On the new offense...
"There was an opportunity that we knew about to get the ball inside. It gave us the spacing we need to exploit people if they try to double our post player. We saw we can get to the paint, and I thought Bianca (Lutley) did a good job attacking and playing off the bounce. Offensively I thought we did enough to win the game but the defense really needs to realize what our identity is going to be and how we need to play every possession."
LSU PLAYER QUOTES
Forward Theresa Plaisance
On how she played offensively...
"I struggled offensively close to the basket and away from the basket, but I just appreciate my teammates still having the confidence in me to pound it inside and give me those looks. My team really pulled me through today. If they weren't keeping me up after every possession, after all those rebounds and stuff, we wouldn't be in this boat right now."
On how the bench players got the team and crowd motivated...
"Coach (Caldwell) is always emphasizing being a player on the court and a player off the court. She says all six people on the bench need to be one, and the five on the court must always be in tune and ready to go in the game. The bench activity we had today was great. You had everyone ready to go at all times, so we were ready."
Guard Bianca Lutley
On how her game has improved from last season...
"Well I think it's my teammates finding me when I'm open. Also, me dribble penetrating, looking for my teammates, or Coach playing me at different positions, and you know I'll have a post player on me and I'm a guard, so sometimes I have the advantage. In the offseason, I think our team worked really hard with our position coaches, and I think that helped me out a lot."
Guard Adrienne Webb
On her three late in the game to give her team the lead...
"I had just come down; I think I had just taken a three and missed it. Coach (Caldwell) really got in to me and was like 'we could have gotten a better shot then, but if you still have that shot open, continue to shoot it.' I think we had just run an action we call duck, and Jeanne came off the ball screen and my person hedged to her, so I was wide open for that shot, and I knew I could hit. I decided to take it."
WICHITA STATE HEAD COACH JODY ADAMS
"This game was going to be a game of inches for us. An inch being the details and we've talked about pretty much all year long. Going into such a tough conference season, and not just about the season opener we had, but being able to come here and play LSU, we feel very fortunate. They exposed us and they helped teach us about those inches, and they did that today late in the game. I'm proud of our team and their execution. It was a great game for women's basketball for the fans of both Wichita State and for LSU, and both Nikki and I will be able to take a lot from this game. Nikki (Caldwell) does a great job with her group; they will be a tough team and will give the SEC a run."
On the difference in the second half...
"I thought in the second half they did a better job of playing the paint and making us take tough twos and tough threes but didn't extend quite as much to allow those gaps to expose them on the backside for penetration or late rotation."
On intense game from both ends...
"LSU is bigger, stronger and more athletic than we are, and that inch is really important for us. That's where we got in trouble on the offensive board. Early on, we didn't handle the pressure very well, and I knew it would take us some time to adjust. There's really no true preparation for that for us and I think that shook us from the beginning. LSU started on their run, then we went on our run, but they had the momentum at the important time, and that was at the end of the game. It was the inches and the boxing out that we did not do and I did not think we stayed in our stance, which put them on the free throw line."
On being former teammates with Nikki Caldwell and what Coach Summitt taught them ...
"I don't get the chance to watch her much, but I know she's done such a wonderful job even before she got here. Having been a teammate of Nikki's, and we would both say this about each other: we're both very competitive. Playing for Pat, she not only taught us about basketball, but also about life skills. And if you're going to be a women's basketball coach, you're going to have to be a detailed teacher. You're going to be disciplined, you're going to have high expectations and average is not accepted. I don't care if you're a BCS school or not, that's the way we coach and the demands we have of our student-athletes on and off the court. We want their skillset on the court to be unbelievable, and their life skillset to be even better."