MIAMI - Junior forward Theresa Plaisance scored 20 points and blocked a career-high seven shots and the LSU women's basketball team withstood a late run from Florida International to win the FIU Thanksgiving Classic, 76-69, on Sunday afternoon in U.S. Century Bank Arena.
In the process, the Lady Tigers (3-2) claimed their 800th all-time victory, becoming the fourth program in Southeastern Conference history to reach the milestone. LSU joins Tennessee, Georgia and Auburn in the 800-win club. The Lady Tigers finished the weekend with a 2-0 mark, including a signature victory over No. 12 West Virginia on Friday night.
Plaisance was named tournament MVP as she combined for 33 points in the two games. Her seven blocks on Sunday tied for the fourth-most in school history and the most since Taylor Turnbow swatted seven on Nov. 26, 2008 against Xavier.
"We made some big plays down the stretch and got to the free throw line late," said LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell. "Theresa Plaisance has really stepped up her play as a go-to (player) for us. I also like that our bench play is giving us something. Derreyal Youngblood had some good offensive rebounds and Anne Pedersen made some shots. Each group that went out there stepped up and did something positive."
Freshman Danielle Ballard and senior guard Adrienne Webb earned spots on the all-tournament team as well. Ballard, who scored a game-high 25 against West Virginia, had 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting on Sunday. Webb fired in 19 points and buried three treys. Junior guard Jeanne Kenney had a career-high-tying eight assists.
"This team continues to find themselves," said Caldwell. "They are learning more about each other and getting more comfortable with the philosophy and the defensive schemes we are throwing out there. We do have a lot of weapons when you look at our offensive package. Jeanne Kenney distributed the basketball really well today."
FIU (2-3) was led in scoring by Sun Belt Conference Preseason Player of the Year Jerica Coley. Coley finished with a game-high 25 points and nine rebounds. She rallied the Panthers back from a once 14-point LSU lead midway through the second half.
LSU shot a blistering 53.1 percent from the floor. The Lady Tigers made 27 field goals on a season-best 18 assists. It represented LSU's highest assist total since dishing out 18 against Alabama on Jan. 8 last season. The Lady Tigers did an outstanding job working the ball inside and getting quality looks in the paint.
Ballard gave LSU a 38-34 lead at the half when she went one-on-one for a runner as time expired. The lead grew to double-digits early in the second half when the star freshman crossed over Coley and scored on an acrobatic layup. Webb's jumper off a Kenney steal and assist gave the Lady Tigers their largest advantage, 55-41, with 13:26 remaining in the game.
Coley refused to let the Panthers go quietly. She drained a three and Carmen Miloglav's layup off an LSU miss cut the advantage to 67-64 with 2:07 to play. However, Ballard came up with a clutch defensive play again for the Lady Tigers, picking a Coley pass in the final minute. It led to two Webb free throws.
LSU once again iced the game at the line as Kenney accounted for four makes in the final 13 seconds. As a team, the Lady Tigers finished 18-of-25 from the line for 72 percent.
LSU concluded its four-game road trip and will now play its next six games at home in the Maravich Center to start the month of December. The Lady Tigers return to action against NC State at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2.