LSU women prepare for challenge against No. 4 South Carolina

It looks as if the LSU women’s basketball team was playing with fire in its three most recent games. Coach Nikki Fargas said the Lady Tigers are simply finding their identity.

In that span, LSU (6-6, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) has seen big leads dissolve into one-possession games near the final buzzer, winning two of them.

That gives the Lady Tigers some momentum with No. 4 South Carolina the next opponent at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center at noon Sunday. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

“Our team is finding its way, its identity, accepting the role that is played out,” Fargas said. “We’re playing it to the best of our ability. You don’t see a lot of 20- or 30-point games. Teams are going to make runs and make plays. It boils down to a couple plays here or there as to whether you win or lose.

“We’ve been able to position ourselves to be in the lead and make plays down the stretch when you need them. Missouri is not an easy place to play. Our team went in and did exactly what it needed to do.

LSU at least has shown improvement in finishing games, winning at Missouri by two and in overtime against No. 7 Texas A&M. The Lady Tigers have improved their field goal shooting and have received contributions from multiple players at crunch time.

The Lady Tigers may need to step that up against a South Carolina team (11-1, 6-0) leading the SEC and boasting perhaps the best trio of players in the nation in Zia Cooke, Aliyah Boston and Destanni Henderson. The threesome is averaging a combined 42.6 points per game and shoots 43.6% from 3-point range.

Boston, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, had a triple double of 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks in a 62-50 victory against Georgia. Henderson is averaging 12.3 points and 5.8 assists per game.

“We’re going to go in and make it a battle, a dogfight,” LSU point guard Khayla Pointer said. “You have to make it tough for them. Boston is a good one-on-one player. We have to do our best to help (LSU post) Faustine Aifuwa.

“We have to slow Destanni down; she’s lightning fast. I’ve never seen anybody move as fast with the ball, right hand or left hand. We’ll do our best to contain her.”

LSU has proven capable of slowing strong offensive teams as it did against Texas A&M, holding the Aggies to 39.6% shooting and forcing 22 turnovers with its pressure defense. The Lady Tigers have also gotten better supporting play from sophomore Tiara Young and Karli Seay.

Young is averaging 15 points and five rebounds in her past five games. Seay has moved into the starting lineup and put up modest, but consistent, numbers on both ends the floor. Pointer continues to lead the team with a 16.1 average.

LSU outrebounded Texas A&M also but faces a bigger challenge against South Carolina which averages 51.8 rebounds per game and a plus-19.1 rebound margin. The Gamecocks’ turnovers per game (13.6) are high but so are the average possessions per game (69.7) and points (84.2).

“Paint points are their bread and butter,” Fargas said. “They get them through transition and going in the paint. They’re one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country (19 per game). We’ve got to cut that number in half. If we do that, we can chip into their possessions. We have to take some of those (field goal attempts) away by keeping them off the boards, not turning the ball over and keeping the game at our tempo.”

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