LSU womens hoops beats Texas A&M, advances to SEC tourney quarters
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Danielle Ballard piled up 22 points and hauled down 10 rebounds to secure her fourth consecutive postseason double-double as the LSU women's basketball team claimed another wire-to-wire during a 71-65 victory over No. 18 Texas A&M during Friday's quarterfinal round of the SEC Tournament.
LSU (17-12) secured back-to-back wins over ranked opponents for the second time this season. The Lady Tigers knocked off No. 15 Mississippi State and No. 10 Kentucky in January.
"I'm very proud of our team for fighting for 40 minutes," head coach Nikki Caldwell said. "Texas A&M is a very explosive team. They're seasoned. They have great leadership in Coach Blair. They have unbelievable players. I was proud of our group for staying the course and sticking to our game plan. We were able to make the plays down the stretch that we needed to solidify the win."
LSU advances to the SEC Tournament semifinal round where it will face top-seed and No. 3 South Carolina. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. CT from the Verizon Arena, and the game will be televised by ESPNU.
For Ballard, it also was her fifth double-double and fourth 20-plus point performance of the season. She also extended her streak to 13 consecutive games in double figures. Ballard was 8-of-16 from the floor and sank 6-of-9 at the free throw line over her 35 minutes of action.
Raigyne Moncrief worked her way around foul trouble to garner 14 points followed by DaShawn Harden's 10 points and handed out three assists. Moncrief has tucked away double figures in 11 of her last 13 appearances.
LSU's post game was led by Anne Pedersen's six points and two assists. Off the bench, Akilah Bethel tacked on five points and eight rebounds. Jenna Deemer came away with six points, while Rina Hill notched four points and an assist.
The Aggies (23-9) were fueled by Courtney Williams' balanced effort. She turned in 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Curtyce Knox knocked down a pair of three-pointers en route to 12 points, and Achiri Ade chipped in seven points and a game-leading 11 rebounds.
LSU started fast for the second straight game against the Aggies and buried eight of its opening nine shot attempts. On the defensive end, the Lady Tigers forced Texas A&M to misfire in its first eight field goals.
Boykin opened the scoring with jumper off the glass. Then, Ballard hit a runner in the lane sandwiched between two midrange jumpers and a Moncrief driving layup. Harden dialed up three-pointers 87 seconds apart to extend the LSU advantage to 16-2 with 14:50 left. The Lady Tigers took their largest lead at 24-5 after Moncrief knocked down two free throws with 11:40 to go.
LSU maintained its double digit advantage for the remainder of the half, and the Lady Tigers were ahead by a 44-31 margin at halftime. LSU's starting backcourt of Ballard, Harden and Moncrief combined for 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting half during the opening 20 minutes. The Lady Tigers also distributed nine assists on their 18 first-half baskets.
With LSU up 59-49 at the 8:05 mark, Texas A&M pieced together 11 of the next 15 points over the next 6:05 off the clock. Williams connected on a deep two-pointer from the top of the key to make it a one-possession game, 63-60, with 1:35 remaining.
On LSU's next possession, Moncrief scooted through the lane and provided a running one-handed layup high off the backboard. Ballard showed off her athleticism on the defensive end and skied high to rip the ball away from A&M's Jada Terry after an offensive rebound.
Ballard would go onto to drain a pair at the charity stripe. Down the stretch, LSU converted on all six of its foul shots inside the final 43 secures to salt away the 71-65 win.
"Our composure is through practice," Caldwell said. "We've talked about how we've got to be better in late-game situations. Down the last four minutes of the game, we want the ball in (Danielle) Ballard's and (Raigyne) Moncrief's hands because they are just great playmakers. They finished out the game for us. They've shown they can do that time and time again in our conference."
LSU meets No. 3 South Carolina in Saturday's semifinal round of the SEC Tournament. Tipoff is slated for 4 p.m. CT from Verizon Arena. The game will be televised by ESPNU along with www.WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app.