STARKVILLE, Miss. - Senior guard Destini Hughes scored a career-high 17 points and the LSU women's basketball team rallied with an 11-0 run late in the second half to extend its winning streak to eight games with a 53-48 win at Mississippi State on Thursday night in Humphrey Coliseum.
The Lady Tigers (11-3, 2-0 SEC) extended the Southeastern Conference's longest win streak and did it with a tremendous come-from-behind effort down the stretch after trailing by as many as nine points midway through the second half.
The Lady Bulldogs (10-4, 0-1) lost their fourth straight game to LSU and went over six minutes without a field goal late that proved to be the deciding factor. MSU's Diamber Johnson, the SEC's leading scorer, was held to six points - 12 points below her scoring average. The game clashed the league's top two defensive field goal percentage teams.
Hughes finished 5-of-10 from the floor and knocked down 5-of-6 clutch free throws. LaSondra Barrett and Courtney Jones combined for 24 points and 16 rebounds. Adrienne Webb added eight points and nine boards.
"This team did not fold and we fought back with our defensive play," said Caldwell. "We've been in this situation before in non-conference play. Once we really committed to keeping the ball on one side and not over-extending our defense, we did a much better job of keeping them off the glass.
"Destini is really finding herself right now offensively. She's been very efficient in guiding our team. When she's scoring the basketball, it helps our guard play tremendously and really opens up our inside game."
LSU trailed 46-39 with 6:16 remaining in the game before making its move. Hughes buried a three from the left side of the floor and Jones' layup with 3:46 to go sliced the deficit to 46-45. Freshman Krystal Forthan then made the play of the game. In her only field goal of the contest, Forthan skied over a defender on a Barrett miss and laid it off the glass for LSU's first lead of the second half with 1:58 to play.
"She had a big offensive rebound for us there," said Caldwell. "We always talk about being a contributor and doing something positive when you get a chance. That was a big-time offensive putback."
LSU extended its lead to 50-46 on a free throw by Barrett and two free throws from Hughes. Mississippi State ended its dry spell on Catina Bett's layup with 22 seconds left that made it a two-point game.
Hughes then finished off the scoring, draining three free throws in the final 14 seconds to preserve the victory.
After struggling on the boards early, LSU out-rebounded its ninth consecutive opponent, 43-41. The Lady Tigers accounted for 17 second-chance points with most of those coming in the final six minutes.
A day prior to the BCS Championship Game, the Lady Tigers get their shot at Alabama in the SEC home opener at 1 p.m. Sunday in the Maravich Center. The first 1,000 fans receive a free Lady Tiger puzzle. The first 200 kids get free nachos. World famous "Bounce" will perform at halftime. The game will be televised live on the SEC Network.