JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Lady Tigers defeated Alabama, 58-49, to advance to the second round of the SEC Tournament here at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. LSU improved to 10-20 on the year and Alabama fell to 15-15.
Juniors Alexis Hyder and Rina Hill combined for 30 points to power the Lady Tigers to victory. Hyder led the way with 20 points off a 9-of-12 effort from the field and a 2-of-3 showing from the charity stripe. She scored 14 of her points in the second half. This was Hyder’s second 20-point game this season and she has scored in double figures in the last seven-straight games. Hyder has scored in double figures in 20 of LSU’s 30 games this season, and she has led the Lady Tigers in scoring on 12 occasions. Hill chipped in 10 points off a 5-of-13 shooting mark from the field. Hill, Hyder and freshman Shanice Norton each had five assists.
“Obviously this was a great win for our program,” said head coach Nikki Fargas. “I thought our team really stuck to the game plan, especially on the defensive end.”
“We were able to score the basketball inside with the help of Alexis Hyder,” added Fargas. “The guard play of Shanice Norton and Rina Hill was tremendous. Anne Pedersen, seeing her knock down shots, it was a great team win. We're grateful to be able to play some more basketball.”
Norton and Hyder led the Lady Tigers in rebounding with nine boards apiece. The nine boards was a career-high for Norton, and eight of her rebounds were on the defensive side. Norton also contributed eight points off 4-of-9 shooting. Ann Jones and Jasmine Rhodes scored six points while Anne Pedersen and Akilah Bethel contributed four points apiece.
The Lady Tigers started the game with only six scholarship players available for action as Bethel and Rhodes were sidelined for the first half because of a violation of team rules. LSU was also without outside shooting threat Jenna Deemer, who missed the South Carolina game with an illness. She missed nine games with the same illness before returning to the court in mid-February against Texas A&M.
With the limited bench and Hyder picking up two early fouls, walk-on Ashley Humbles played a season-high nine minutes. She hauled in one rebound.
Head coach Nikki Fargas is now 6-4 in SEC Tournament games. She has registered 1-1 records in the last three seasons and posted a 2-1 showing in her first season at LSU. In the 2012 tournament hosted in Nashville, the Lady Tigers, a No. 4 seed, knocked off Arkansas and Kentucky before falling to Tennessee, 70-58, in the title game. Last year, LSU had the two-round bye and defeated Texas A&M, 71-65, before suffering a 74-54 loss to South Carolina in the semifinals.
The Lady Tigers were down, 24-22, at the half after shooting 10-of-23 from the field and hitting both free-throw attempts. Alabama was 9-of-31 from the field with two three-pointers in the first half. The Tide was 4-of-4 from the free-throw line and outrebounded LSU, 17-15. The lead changed 10 times in the first half with LSU getting its biggest lead of four points in the first quarter.
The Lady Tigers have struggled in the third quarter in many SEC game this season, but in this game that was not the case. The Lady Tigers used a 6-0 run to outscore Alabama, 14-8, and went into the fourth quarter ahead, 36-32. LSU shot 47 percent (7-15) in the third quarter and held Alabama to an 18-percent (2-11) shooting clip. The Tide missed seven consecutive shots and turned the ball over four times while only scoring three points off free-throws during a seven-minute span.
LSU showed no signs of letting up in the fourth quarter, outscoring Alabama, 22-17. The Lady Tigers shot 67 percent (8-12) from the field in the final period and maintained a lead the entire fourth despite Alabama going 7-of-10 from the line and 5-of-11 from the field. Hyder's three-point play and two free throws by Jasmine Rhodes gave LSU its largest lead, 58-48, with 1:11 remaining. Hyder was 4-of-4 from the field and Bethel hit both of her shot attempts in the fourth quarter as they combined for 14 of the team’s 22 points.
Meoshonti Knight led the Tide with 15 points while Hannah Cook led her squad with nine rebounds.
The Lady Tigers held a 31-30 advantage on the boards and both teams scored 22 points in the paint. LSU managed 15 points off 13 Alabama turnovers. The Lady Tigers shot 50 percent (25-50) from the field and converted eight of nine free-throw attempts. The Lady Tigers tallied a season-high 21 assists, marking the most since posting 20 against Southeastern Louisiana last year.
The Lady Tigers will meet No. 5 seed Kentucky on Thursday at approximately 1:30 p.m. CT, as the match-up will follow the Auburn-Missouri game that begins at 11 a.m. CT.
The game will be carried by SEC Network with Cara Capuano handling play-by-play duties and Gail Goestenkors serving as the color analyst. Steffi Sorensen will provide the sideline reports during the broadcast. The SEC Network telecast also will be available on www.WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app. All games of the SEC Tournament will also be available on Sirius 145 / XM 190 / Online 963.
The LSU Sports Radio Network will broadcast the game on its flagship station Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge. The broadcast featuring Patrick Wright, the voice of the Lady Tigers, also will be available for Geaux Zone subscribers at www.LSUsports.net/live.
The Lady Tigers lost to Kentucky on the road, 70-58, this year and are 7-4 against the Wildcats in the SEC Tournament.
For all of the latest news and information on Lady Tiger basketball, visit www.LSUsports.net/womensbasketball. Fans also can follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/LSUwbkb, @LSUwbkb and @NikkiCaldwell on Twitter, @LSUwbkb and @LSUNikkiCaldwell on Instagram.
Coach, give us your thoughts on today's win over Alabama.
COACH FARGAS: Obviously a great win for our program. I thought our team really stuck to the game plan, especially on the defensive end.
We were able to score the basketball inside with the help of Alexis Hyder. The guard play of Shanice Norton and Rina Hill was tremendous. Anne Pedersen, seeing her knock down shots, it was a great team win. We're grateful to be able to play some more basketball.
Q. Coach, I don't want to embarrass Alexis, did you think she was a little bit too hesitant to shoot in the first half? Were there any conversations for her to take chances?
COACH FARGAS: I thought she turned down some shots in the first half. She realized that in the second half she really had to be that dominant force for us. She represented us in a big-time way.
She is one of the best players in our conference. She's someone who has gotten better. You can see the improvement. Her teammates count on her.
I thought today she really answered the call. She's a really unselfish basketball player, sometimes to a fault. I don't know if you want your leading center leading your team in assists on every night, but she had five tonight.
Again, being who Lex is, she just played and gave all she had.
ALEXIS HYDER: Everybody kind of got on me about passing up shots. I figured, if I have two, somebody has to be open, if I'm doubled. That's what it was. I'm kind of glad my team was knocking down shots. It opened up the floor for me.
Q. Coach, did it seem like the offense warmed up as the game went on? Late third, early fourth quarter, kind of pulled away. Was it a little bit of an adjustment?
COACH FARGAS: It helps when you're able to knock down those wide-open shots, the confidence that the young ladies showed, the resilience they've shown all season. I'm glad it paid off at the right time.
We typically pick and choose when we run the basketball. Norton was really pushing tempo, even when I didn't want tempo to be pushed. She saw some things. Sometimes you just got to let them play.
They did a nice job in our transition game to open the game up in the fourth quarter.
Q. Meoshonti looked like she was going to take the game over. She had 11 of her first 13 points. Four points after that, what were the major adjustments you did against her defensively?
COACH FARGAS: She's a very good basketball player. Her ability to play off the bounce was really giving us fits. We were turning the ball over and she was capitalizing in the transition game. In the second half, we paid a lot of attention to her, especially late in the clock. We wanted to make sure we covered her. We would go into our man-to-man defense to really try to disrupt her.
But she's definitely somebody who we had to make some adjustments at the half for.
Q. (No microphone.)
SHANICE NORTON: I think when we went to switch to man, like, we stayed alert and kept communicating with each other so we were all on the same page.
We just worked as a unit. We recognized their weaknesses and played against them to our advantage.
Q. Shanice, you spent a couple years here at Potter's House. Talk about not only playing the SEC tournament in Jacksonville, but getting a win.
SHANICE NORTON: It was great. I had people out there supporting us, my coach, Tony, he was out there, some people from my school were out there. It's always good to come back home, I guess.
It was great getting a win, too.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports