BATON ROUGE - Facing its third top-15 ranked team in seven days, LSU found itself in a familiar situation with the game on the line. The Lady Tigers after suffering a heartbreaking defeat to No. 12 Tennessee in the final seconds on Thursday, would not be denied in the final minutes on Sunday.
Southeastern Conference Player of the Year candidate Theresa Plaisance led a trio of double-figures with 13 points, and the LSU women's basketball team converted 9-of-12 free throws in the final two minutes to knock off No. 9 Georgia, 62-54, in the "Pink Game" to benefit breast cancer awareness on Sunday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
"I'm very proud of this team, especially after the loss on Thursday," said LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell. "We could have wallowed in the fact that we let that one go. But they came back today with a lot of courage, and a lot of character. Their work ethic on the defensive end was impeccable. I thought we did a very good job of disrupting a very good offensive team in Georgia. They pretty much executed and tried to do anything we asked of them."
The win concluded a grueling week for LSU (14-10, 5-6 SEC), which had to host three ranked SEC teams in a row for the first time in school history. The Lady Tigers were masterful at the free throw line, burying 17-of-23 for the game for 73.9 percent, including a career-high 6-of-8 from Jeanne Kenney.
Georgia (20-4, 8-3) saw a four-game winning streak come to an end and dropped its seventh consecutive game in Baton Rouge. During all seven of those defeats, the Lady Bulldogs have been ranked in the top 25. Their last victory in the Maravich Center was 12 years ago on Jan. 14, 2001.
LSU used one of its most balanced scoring performances of the season. Kenney added 11 points and five assists, while Adrienne Webb fired in 12 points and nailed two threes. Webb moved into a tie for fifth place with Katrina Hibbert in LSU all-time made threes with 153.
The Lady Tigers also got dynamic contributions from their bench. Shanece McKinney scored six points and grabbed eight points, while freshman Derreyal Youngblood had seven points. Freshman Danielle Ballard, though she struggled from the floor, managed to collect a career-best 15 rebounds, representing the highest total by an LSU player in an SEC contest this season.
Unlike the Texas A&M and Tennessee games, the Lady Tigers stole the momentum early and took a 31-25 lead into halftime. Georgia's Jasmine Hassell tied the game at 38 all with 13:53 to go, and Jasmine James' lay-up in transition gave the Lady Bulldogs the lead.
Plaisance then went to work, hitting a baseline jumper on an inbounds pass from Kenney. Ballard provided a nifty scoop and score, and Plaisance made two free throws to increase LSU's advantage to 44-40 with 10:42 to play. Hassell, who finished with a game-high 18 points, drew Georgia within one on a second-chance lay-up with 3:23 on the clock.
That's when LSU did what it does best - getting to the free throw line. Webb confidently made two free throws and Kenney found Plaisance for another jumper. Defensively, the Lady Tigers shutdown Georgia, which allowed a 7-0 run. Kenney drained 5-of-7 free throws in the final 1:04, and the Lady Bulldogs managed only one field goal in the final 1:45.
"We got better and that's the process and just remembering it's not a sprint but a marathon," said Kenney. "Right now we finished the marathon, and I thought we did a great job of capitalizing on the good that we did against Tennessee even though we came out with the loss. We are getting there."
LSU held Georgia to 30.1 percent shooting, its second-lowest output of the season, while collecting nine steals. The Lady Tigers also dominated the boards in the second half, finishing 53-45 for the game and 30-16 in the final 20 minutes.
At halftime, LSU paid tribute to breast cancer survivors at midcourt. They received a standing ovation from the Maravich Center faithful. The Lady Tigers improved to 6-0 all-time in the Maravich Center when wearing the infamous pink uniforms. Three of those victories have now come against Georgia.
LSU will now recuperate and prepare for its next opponent at Mississippi State at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. The game will be televised by Fox Sports Net Southwest.
LSU vs. Georgia
February 10, 2013
LSU HEAD COACH NIKKI CALDWELL
"I'm very proud of this team, especially after the loss on Thursday. We could have wallowed in the fact that we let that one go. But they came back today with a lot of courage, and a lot of character. Their work ethic on the defensive end was impeccable. I thought we did a very good job of disrupting a very good offensive team in Georgia. They've got some tremendous players. We were able to execute our game plan. They pretty much executed and tried to do anything we asked of them. More importantly, I was proud of them to come away with a win today."
On the team's attitude in today's game...
"I was leaning more to the confident side, and being optimistic because of how they handled the Tennessee loss. I saw a team very disappointed, but I saw a team who had laid it on the line and wasn't afraid to. With great risk there are great rewards, but there is also going to be greater sorrow. We felt that in the locker room. We took the day off Friday, and removed ourselves completely from basketball. We came in Saturday, and went over the game plan real light. We let them sleep in this morning, and got to the gym early and they were focused. That's the sign of a team that's maturing."
On the importance of today's win...
"We were very focused. We know that opportunities are going to start dwindling down. We knew that a win today would not only have significance as far as our standings in the SEC play, but more importantly for team morale, having been so close in the last two games. Against Texas A&M in the last four minutes we let that one slip. In the last 40 seconds of the Tennessee game, we let that one slip. They've always known that they can play with some of the best teams in the country. It is just a matter of us now taking that extra step to beat some of the best teams in the country."
On Danielle Ballard's rebounding success
"(Ballard) is that type of player. She has competitive spirit about her. She wants to win. She didn't shoot the ball extremely well, but we challenge her to do other things like get on the boards, and she did just that. Some of those offensive put backs that she missed; we know she can make some of them. Some of them, because of her competitive spirit, she was going against a 6'4' 6'3' (player) every time. But Danielle does a lot of good things for us, not only with her board play but also defensively."
LSU PLAYER QUOTES
Guard Jeanne Kenney
On the win...
"I feel like we just got better and better with each game and starting with Texas A&M the score for that didn't show the way we played. I feel like we just keep getting better and if you are on the right path this time of the season, then it's a good path to be on. If we keep going up, keep getting wins and continue to build our team up then we will be good."
On their mental toughness...
"I felt personally that you can't go 0-3 against these top-ranked teams and in hindsight you save the best for last and the highest ranking team for last. We got better and that's the process and just remembering it's not a sprint but a marathon. Right now we finished the marathon, and I thought we did a great job of capitalizing on the good that we did against Tennessee even though we came out with the loss, we still did well. We played as a team at times but, we needed to focus on playing as a team for 40 minutes. We are getting there.
Forward Theresa Plaisance
On the game...
These past couple of games we have been playing the best teams in the country and we've hung in there for every game and fell short. We finally pulled this one against Georgia and they are a really tough team with guard play and inside play. They were a great match for our team and beating a team like Georgia is great motivation and very uplifting. Hopefully it's going to keep us trucking for the rest of the season."
On finishing the game off...
"The Tennessee game was a huge disappointment for all of us and while it did come down to free throws at the end of the game, a few of us missed wide open layups in the beginning and those things add up. If we didn't start off that game 13-2 and the second half 0-7 than maybe the outcome would have been different. Looking back, we came into practice and took the positive out of it. Even though we lost, we played a really great game and we took steps in the right direction. I felt like today we played a good team game and not one person took over but everyone was very balanced and it showed that if one person wasn't hitting then we always trust our teammates to hit open shots."
GEORGIA HEAD COACH ANDY LANDERS
"Unfortunately, we didn't start this game locked in like we wanted. In the first five minutes, (Adrienne) Webb gets two threes early and (Bianca) Lutley gets fouled on the drive for the three-point play. The things that we needed to do to win were no threes for Webb and (Danielle) Ballard can't drive the basketball. Long story short, we gave up nine points in the first five minutes of the basketball and I thought we weren't locked in and did not get the job done. Two timeouts later we've locked in and we played for 35 minutes but then Webb gets two more field goals so we're locked but we didn't start the game like that."
On their field goal percentage...
"We got some good looks and I thought we got some close ones in the first half that should have gone in and would have really changed the temperature at halftime. In the second half, we had more jumpers but really good ones that we didn't get to go down. We shot the ball 73 times but not very well. We scored one more field goal than they did, but we got pounded on the line."
On the second half...
"I thought the critical point in the second half was when the score was 44-42. I think we had five stops in a row, which gave us possession five times in a row, and we had gotten the momentum. Unfortunately, we turned it over twice and made poor decisions in transition."
On their overall performance...
"There's no question we played hard, and for most of the day, we played smart. We didn't hit shots and missed some good looks at the basket and we played hard and smart. We switched from man to zone and had success when we switched. It's not like we played horrible but you have to give LSU credit, and they took it inside like they had to do and it worked in the second half."