BATON ROUGE -- Freshman Danielle Ballard notched her first career double-double with a game-high 24 points and 12 rebounds as the LSU women's basketball team outlasted Ole Miss, 84-79, in a high-scoring Southeastern Conference opener for both teams on Thursday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Lady Tigers (10-4, 1-0) SEC led by as many as 10 points midway through the first half, but the Rebels (7-7, 0-1) rallied with 10-of-22 threes - the most by an LSU opponent this year - and 13 second-chance points.
Ballard continued to make a case for SEC Freshman of the Year, keeping plays alive with dives on the floor, offensive rebounds (six) and two steals. She was 8-of-9 from the free throw line, including two clutch makes off an offensive rebound attempt after she was fouled with 1:06 to play in the game. Those free throws put LSU ahead 82-79.
"She (Ballard) was everywhere," said LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell. "She led us in rebounding. She had 12 on the night, and half of them were on the offensive glass. I thought Bianca Lutley did a great job too of keeping some balls alive for us. Those two, coming from the guard position and crashing in, that is hard to box out. We did a good job of really getting those good looks that we needed down the stretch."
Four Lady Tiger starters finished in double-figures - a first since Jan. 18, 2009 - including 17 points from Bianca Lutley and 14 points from Adrienne Webb. Theresa Plaisance, who was shutout in the first half, scored all 12 of her points in the second stanza. Jeanne Kenney's hustle play provided six assists, a game-high four steals and seven points.
Ole Miss' Valencia McFarland, one of the top guards in the SEC, finished with 10 points and nine assists. Gracie Frizzell buried 5-of-7 threes and scored 17 points. Tia Faleru led the Rebels with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
With LSU trailing 40-39 at the half, the Lady Tigers responded with the first eight points of the second half as Plaisance came alive with two paint touch scores. Ballard's lay-up made it 47-40 LSU with 18:32 to go. The Rebels chipped away at the score and eventually tied it following Frizzell's three with 9:43 remaining.
Two minutes later, Frizzell knocked down another trey to give Ole Miss its first lead since halftime, 72-69. Plaisance followed with a jumper, while Ballard's ensuing free throws gave LSU the lead again. She stormed the boards on her own miss and got fouled.
Frizzell cut the Lady Tiger lead to 80-79 with 1:38 to go with her fifth three. That's when Ballard then made the play of the game again on the boards. Lutley misfired on a jumper, but Ballard raced from the free throw line and nearly made a putback as she was fouled. She made both free throws and it put LSU in front for good, 82-79, with 1:06 to play.
Ole Miss had a chance to tie it in the final minute, but Lutley collected a clutch steal at the top of the key to preserve the victory.
"To our team, for hanging tough down the stretch, I thought that in the last seven minutes of the game we really tightened our defense," said Caldwell. "We were a lot better on that avenue, but we also rebounded the basketball a lot better."
LSU shot 45.6 percent from the floor to Ole Miss' 44.6 percent. The teams were even on the boards with 40 rebounds apiece.
The Lady Tigers play their first road SEC game of the season at 1 p.m. CT Sunday against the Florida Gators in the O'Connell Center. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and ESPN3.com. It is also available on IPads and tablets via the Watch ESPN application.
LSU HEAD COACH NIKKI CALDWELL
"Ole Miss did a great job of really coming in here focused and committed to their game plan. They were looking to push tempo, make transition baskets and they got all over the offensive glass. They are a good team. They are going to win some ball games. To our team, for hanging tough down the stretch, I thought that in the last seven minutes of the game we really tightened our defense. We were a lot better on that avenue, but we also rebounded the basketball a lot better."
On the second chance points and the play of Danielle Ballard...
"She was everywhere. She led us in rebounding. She had 12 on the night, and half of them were on the offensive glass. I thought Bianca Lutley did a great job too of keeping some balls alive for us. Those two, coming from the guard position and crashing in, that is hard to box out. We did a good job of really getting those good looks that we needed down the stretch as well. This was a great team win."
On Theresa Plaisance's play in the second half and adjustments...
"We've got to move her more. We have to play her high and bring her low. They also did a great job of changing up their defense. They went to a matchup zone and really packed it in. We had to make some shots. I thought Adrienne Webb hit some big shots for us against their zone. Again, this was a great team win. I am proud of the young ladies for hanging in down the stretch."
GUARD DANIELLE BALLARD
On her performance tonight...
"My teammates fed me the ball. We read the defenders and were getting deflections. I was just into the game."
On making hustle plays...
"We came together. The game was so close. We had to get some stops on the defensive end. They got their points off of second chance shots. We tried to cut that down to one shot and done. We tried to get the rebound on the defensive end and get stops."
On improvements needed before facing off against Florida...
"We need to improve on defense. That's the most important thing. We are in the SEC now. We are going to go against some hard teams, so our defense is number one."
OLE MISS HEAD COACH BRETT FRANK
On their poor starts...
"We've kind of been a slow starting team and so we wanted to make sure we didn't get off to a slow start today. In our previous games, getting down 10-1 or 11-2 has given confidence that we can come back from behind and give us a chance. We just have to get our feet under us and start doing the things we need to do."
After gaining the lead...
"I think that they did play with a lot of confidence and they did see some gaps and holes that they could exploit. They were really aggressive offensively and that caused us to be a little more adventurous and take more risks. Those risks caused quite a number of turnovers, but we shot a great percentage and had some great looks at the end."
On their transition game...
"I think two areas that are our best are our transition game and our offensive rebounding. I think if we do those things then we will be able to compete and stay in some games and hopefully shock some people in the end."