KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Danielle Ballard poured in 25 points to equal a career-high and was one of four players to secure double figures as the No. 16 LSU women’s basketball team opened SEC action with a thrilling 80-77 victory over No. 5 Tennessee Monday in-front of 14,437 fans at Thompson-Boling Arena.
LSU (11-2, 1-0 SEC) snapped a seven-game losing skid to the Lady Vols (11-2, 0-1 SEC) which dated back to the 2008-09 season. It was the Lady Tigers third win in 22 attempts in Knoxville and the program’s first road win over a Top 5 opponent since a 78-62 victory over then-No. 1 Tennessee on Feb. 14, 2008. LSU also handed the Lady Vols their first defeat in a SEC opener since the 1996-97 campaign which ended a run of 16 consecutive wins.
The 80 points amassed by the Lady Tigers was a season-high for a Tennessee opponent. The last time LSU reached the 80-point mark versus the Lady Vols was an 81-80 win during the 2002 SEC Tournament semifinals in Nashville, Tenn.
Ballard ripped off 17 of her 25 points during the first half. She was effective and efficient driving the lane as eight of her career-high 11 field goals came off layups. The 25 points tied a career-high for the Memphis, Tenn. native which she set last season at West Virginia. She also provided eight rebounds, four assists and four steals over her 34 minutes of action.
DaShawn Harden tacked on 17 points off the bench highlighted by a quartet of three-pointers. It was Harden’s highest scoring output since the opening weekend of the season. She compiled all 17 of LSU’s bench points.
Theresa Plaisance registered nine of her 15 points in the second half before she fouled out with just over two minutes left in the game, while Jeanne Kenney turned in 14 points aided by a flawless 7-for-7 effort at the foul line and dished out five assists.
Shanece McKinney put together a strong all-around effort with six points, five rebounds and tied a season’s best with three blocks.
Playing with foul trouble for a majority of the contest, Raigyne Moncrief was bottled up for a season-low three points. However, the freshman guard buried two clutch free throws which included the front end of a 1-and-1 with 12 seconds on the clock to give LSU its winning three-point margin.
Tennessee was led by Isabelle Harrison’s 26 points and 10 rebounds. Meighan Simmons, the SEC Preseason Player of the Year, was shutout in the second half after she garnered 15 points during the opening 20 minutes. Ariel Massengale came away with 10 points and 12 assists for the Lady Vols.
With the score knotted at 55-55 at the 10:46 mark of the second half, LSU ripped off 20 of the next 24 points over a 6:07 span. The flurry was ignited by a Harden triple on the left baseline with the shot clock expiring.
Ballard connected back-to-back driving layups, and Harden drilled another three-ball from the top of the key to give LSU a 65-56 edge with 6:59 remaining. The spurt was capped by four Kenney free throws off Tennessee technical fouls, and a Raigyne Moncrief foul shot to make it 75-59 with 4:37 to go.
The Lady Vols charged back behind 11 points from Harrison. She split two free throws with 16 seconds left to pull Tennessee back to within 78-77 which finished off an 18-3 run for the Lady Vols. Four seconds later, Moncrief calmly knocked down the front end of a 1-and-1 and her bonus attempt to push LSU’s advantage back to 80-77.
The Lady Vols had one final opportunity to send the game into overtime, but Andraya Carter’s contested game tying three-point attempt` from the top of the key over a fully-extended Kenney rimmed in-and-out to seal the LSU victory.
As a team, LSU produced a 26-for-64 shooting effort which included a 6-for-12 mark from three-point territory. The 40.6 field goal percentage was the second-highest clip by a Tennessee opponent on the season. The Lady Tigers also were an efficient 22-for-27 at the foul line sparked by a 14-for-16 mark during the second half. The 81.5 percent ratio at the charity stripe was LSU’s second-best performance for the season.
Tennessee was 25-of-60 from the floor, 4-of-11 from the three-point arc and 23-for-32 at the free throw line. The Lady Vols notched a 47-33 rebounding advantage, but LSU matched Tennessee with 36 points in the paint.
Tennessee raced out to a 10-4 advantage at the 16:47 mark of the first half fueled by six Simmons points. LSU fired off eight of the next 11 points finished by a Ballard jumper and a Plaisance layup on consecutive possessions to draw back to 13-12 with 14:37 left.
Four minutes later, the Lady Tigers regained a 20-19 lead on a Ballard steal and layup. LSU would piece together a 12-4 spurt and snatched a 28-23 edge on Harden triple with 9:04 remaining.
Tennessee responded with 12 consecutive points to reverse a five-point hole into a seven-point advantage at 35-28 with 4:45 on the clock.
LSU trimmed down the deficit down to 44-40 heading into halftime. Ballard and Kenney teamed up for 10 of the team’s final 12 points of the opening stanza.
The Lady Tigers carried that momentum out of the locker room and scored 11 of the first 13 points to begin the second half. Plaisance gave LSU a 45-44 edge with a three-pointer and finished the spurt with a jumper to give the Lady Tigers a 51-46 lead with 15:04 to go.
Tennessee rallied with nine of the next 13 points over a 4:18 stretch which concluded with six straight points to knot the tally at 55-55 at the 10:46 mark.
LSU plays its final non-conference game Sunday at Tulane. Tip time is slated for 2 p.m. from Devlin Fieldhouse. There is no television coverage for Sunday’s game.
The LSU Sports Radio Network will broadcast the game on Talk 107.3 FM in the Baton Rouge and inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live. Patrick Wright, the voice of the Lady Tigers, will call the action.
For all of the latest news and information on Lady Tiger basketball, visit www.lsusports.net/womensbasketball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsuwbkb along with @lsuwbkb and @nikkicaldwell on Twitter.
HEAD COACH NIKKI CALDWELL
"We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game. I'm just so proud of our team for really taking our game plan, and they executed. Players stepped up and made big plays. We knew Tennessee was going to come at us and make a run. That's who they are. Again, I can't say enough about how proud I am of this group. They really just laid it out on the line and were courageous to come in this tough environment and come away with a win."
On LSU’s guard play …
"It was huge. We were without our bigs in the first half. (Danielle) Ballard just took it upon herself to really be aggressive. That was the first key we put on the board tonight – to play aggressively. Ballard did that. Jeanne (Kenney) is coming into her own as far as being that threat from the three-point line but more importantly just being that general for us. You know, we know DaShawn Harden could shoot the basketball. She's been in a little slump, but she's been in the gym and put in the extra work to fill her tank to be able to come into an environment like this and be successful. It was definitely a team effort. Great screens by the post game helped."
On tonight’s win …
"I think the one thing is – and I told the team about this in our pregame speech about greatness – I've been fortunate to be part of the (Tennessee) program as a player and as a coach. Obviously, Coach Summitt means the world to me. I said through us, Tasha Butts one of my assistant coaches and Tony Perotti another assistant coach – we all came through the Tennessee family. That's a part of them too. We talked about that – what that means to come into this arena and play in this environment. But more importantly to have the respect for Coach Summitt, and what she's meant to the women's game for us to even be in this situation when you have 15,000-plus fans here. They're touched by her through us."
On if it was more meaningful than another SEC win …
"One thing I will say about being a competitor that Coach (Summitt) always instilled in us is the biggest competitor you'll face is yourself. It doesn't matter who's on the other side. You have to respect their game and respect who they are. It's about these young ladies playing with tremendous passion for the game. We were together, and we talked about in your life you'll have special moments. This is going to be a moment they remember, but it's more about the journey."
GUARD JEANNE KENNEY
On Tennessee's late press defense and rally …
"I did have about six turnovers, and that was probably all in the last minute. We just came together. Danielle (Ballard) kept looking at me every time I turned the ball over, and I was so mad at myself. She just gives me that energy and effort. I'm not going to turn the ball over again because I'm not going to ruin Danielle's night. That's how I feel whenever Danielle looks at me. It was everybody. Shanece (McKinney) was setting screens, Theresa (Plaisance) was setting screens and Derreyal (Youngblood) was killing screens. Just coming together – it wouldn't be a game if we almost didn't lose the lead. It wouldn't be LSU basketball if we didn't almost lose a lead. But we finished strong, and that's something we've worked to improve upon since the preseason."
On starting SEC season with a win …
"It helps us tremendously. It shows how far we've come especially after losing to NC State. It's a new year. The crowd was fantastic. It's always an incredible experience when we come here. We have to capitalize on this now. We can't take two steps back and one step forward."
GUARD DANIELLE BALLARD
On scoring off screens …
"Coach (Caldwell) was calling out plays that really worked for us. The team trusted me with the ball. I got to the hole each and every time. That play worked for us."
HEAD COACH Holly Warlick
(On embracing a pressure defense)
"Our defense wasn't very highly motivated to play until probably like the last six minutes of the game. There's a time when you've got to open up and play defense whether it's half court or full court and we just didn't get the job done. We didn't have an answer for her and I hope they learn from that. That's how we want to play, but we just were backing up and we didn't have enough defense until probably the last six minutes."
(On the technical fouls)
"Well apparently Meighan had some body language that wasn't very good and I guess he didn't like what I said."
(On Ballard getting inside the defense)
"I don't know I'll have to go back and watch the tape. She took the ball the length of the floor, the lay-ups, she reversed a couple times and scored so I think it's a variety of things. I just don't think we were down in the stance. I don't know. I don't know what our approach was. I don't know if there were distractions, we've had distractions, we've seemed to handle them but we just didn't come out ready to play. Just plain and simple."
(On Bashaara Graves injury)
"She wasn't getting any lift off of her jumps. She was in pain. I don't want to chance playing her because I don't know what she hurt. I didn't want to do anymore damage to her, but she is tough kid. When she says she is hurt, she is hurt."
(On getting beat on the boards during the first half)
"We drew notice to it because they were killing us on the boards. They weren't hurting us on the second shot. It was the third shot, and they were getting pretty easy lay ups. When you do that, you are going to shoot a pretty high percentage. We worked on it out of our zone, and we work on it every day. We just didn't drop down and get the defensive boards, and that is what our emphasis always is. We just didn't get it done."
(On last possession shot)
"We wanted Ariel Massengale to get a three. She just didn't get a chance to get the ball. I thought Andraya Carter got a good look. She has hit some big threes, but it just didn't go in. You go back to making free throws. I keep saying this, `We missed nine free throws.' A lot of those were one and ones. You have to hit free throws and put backs. Free throws have been a little bit of our demise. It is not all on Izzy, but she ties the game, and you can go back and look at all the free throws that we missed. We have to get better. It is plain and simple. We have been shooting them, and we will continue to shoot them. That is just a confidence thing, and we have to get our confidence back."
(On Isabelle Harrison's play)
"She is a competitor. She had 26 points. I am pleased. I am not putting any blame on Izzy. We all contributed in being down early, and then we all contributed in getting back into the game. It is a team sport. We have to learn from it. We have to turn around and play Georgia Saturday. We can't dwell on this too long. We will go back and watch the tape to see what we can do. We will get better."
JUNIOR CENTER Isabelle Harrison
(On not giving up)
"I think that after all the chaos that was going on, we just pulled each other together and no matter what we just have to get stops, and really focus and not worry about anything else. I think that during that stretch we did really well at coming together."
(On shooting free throws at the end)
"Yeah it did. Maybe I just had too much thinking in my head. I should have concentrated. It frustrates me, a lot."
(On taking this game more serious than games in the past)
"I think honestly, like C (Cierra Burdick) said, we wanted to bounce back from Stanford and show the coaches that we can play team ball, we can play defense. I think we went out there and as a team, we played really well. We took this team serious, and we are going to do that to every team we play from now on."
(On the absence of Bashaara Graves)
"I'm used to having Bashaara in the game, having that physicality and if I missed and see Bashaara I put it up and vice versa. She is a huge aspect to our offense and defense. We don't have another strong post player like that and we she got hurt it really affected us."
(On the short turnaround to Georgia)
"I just think we need to do the same thing we did from Stanford. We have to learn from it and watch it and bounce back from it. We just need to go back to the little things and keep getting better."
JUNIOR POINT GUARD Ariel Massengale
(On the second half)
"It is tough, especially when you work so hard every day. This is what we were looking forward to, to this night. We played great the last eight minutes, but it has always been our problem not being ready in the first half. We came out and they had 22 paint points in the first half. We knew that is where we had to stop them because that is what they like to do. So we just have to go back to the little details, and get back to the basics of doing what we know we are capable of doing. How we played the last eight minutes of the game, we have to find a way to play with that energy and contain that for 40 minutes."
(On facing full-court press)
"I think we could because we do like to speed the game up. Whatever the coaches call, we have to go out there and play, and play hard. The guards, we hurt us in the first half on the offensive end when it came to rebounding. We have to do a better job at that. That is something we worked on yesterday. Just being able to transfer what we do in practice to game time."
(On Danielle Ballard's play throughout the game)
"She is a great player. We knew coming into this game that she is great when it comes to one on one and getting to the rim penetrating, hesitation she has great handles she can do some great things and is very capable of doing those things on the offensive end. She put her team on her back in the first half and went out there and did what she needed to do for them and it cost us. We tried to fight back in the second half and towards the end we didn't have enough to get over the hump.
(On how their shooting percentage dropped in the second half)
"I think it's from where we were pressing on the offensive end because the game was getting away from us from a scoring stand point. So, we weren't moving the ball and getting the great shots we were getting in the first half, but we just have to work on it and get back to the basics. It hurts, it’s not how we wanted to start the SEC but it is what it is and we have to learn from it. Just like Coach Holly said in the locker room it's not the end, it’s a long season and we have plenty of time to get better."