Looking to avenge a Jan. 15 defeat in Gainesville, the LSU women fell 73-64 to Florida at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Thursday night dropping their fifth straight SEC game.
The Lady Tigers, who turned the ball over 22 times, struggled defensively, allowing the Gators to shoot 50% from the field and score 30 points in the paint.
One beneficiary of LSU’s struggles inside was Florida senior center Azania Stewart, who recorded her first double-double of the season with 10 rebounds – 8 offensive – and 12 points.
The Gators, who were coming off a 57-52 loss to No. 6-ranked Kentucky Sunday, scored the game’s first basket on an Ndidi Madu jump shot. They never looked back and led the entire game, one that Gators coach Amanda Butler called a great.
“There has not been a win, certainly this season, that I’ve been more proud of the way that we played,” Butler said. “It wasn’t just one person that made the play. It was a fantastic team effort.”
Florida built an 11-point lead with 6:35 remaining in the first half. But the Tigers roared back – thanks to junior guard Adrienne Webb.
Following a timeout, Webb connected on a jump shot in the paint over the outstretched arms of the Florida defenders. Moments later she stole the ball from Stewart, which led to two points by Courtney Jones.
With 3:49 remaining in the first half, Webb was at it again. She stole the ball from Florida’s Deana Allen and scampered down the court for a fast-break layup. The PMAC momentarily erupted as LSU cut the Florida’s lead to five.
“LSU did a very good job at fighting and putting themselves in a position to come back at us,” Butler said.
However, it took Florida2 minutes to push its lead to nine points, which is where it stayed going into the half, as the Gators were ahead 33-24.
The second half looked eerily similar to the first, including a stretch of time when LSU was just two possessions away from a tied ballgame. But with LSU’s nine second-half turnovers and Florida’s 20 points in the paint with a 52% shooting percentage clip, the hill was too high for the Lady Tigers to climb.
“We missed some defensive assignments and we let people wide open so they were able to knock down open shots,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “They really established themselves through the high post, which is an area that we did not cover correctly.”
A quick 3-pointer from Lanita Bartley followed by two free throws by Stewart put LSU in a 14-point hole – its largest deficit of the night. Like the first half, it was Webb that proved to be the ignition the Lady Tigers show-starting offense needed.
Webb, who scored 11 of her team-leading 19 points in the second half, hit back-to-back jump shots to cut Florida’s lead to 10. The teams then traded basket-after-basket, as LSU struggled to get within six points of the Gators.
“Even though every time we scored, they scored, we still kept a positive attitude,” Webb said. “We just kept ourselves positive instead of blaming somebody else.”
With 6:31 left in the game after a Madu miss, guard Jeanne Kenney brought the ball past midcourt, her eyes glancing in her teammates direction. Florida’s Andrea Vilaro Aragones came up from behind her like a thief in the night and stole the ball.
A large sigh passed through the 5,295 in attendance at the PMAC.
It wasn’t just that play that led to the reaction. In essence, Kenney’s turnover resembled the entire night for the Lady Tigers.
A night riddled with turnovers and mistakes. When Caldwell arrived at the podium for her post-game press conference, she sat dejected.
“Right now our mental tank is running on fumes,” Caldwell said. “We really tried to stay positive, really tried to encourage this team to keep their head up. From a mental standpoint we didn’t step up to that challenge. I felt physically we didn’t step up to that challenge for 40 minutes.”
LSU has two days to fuel up their mental tank.
Because No. 6 Kentucky is coming to town for a 2 p.m. contest on Sunday.
Matt Marcantonio is a senior print journalism major at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. Prior to his internship with Tiger Sports Digest, he contributed to The Advocate and interned with Sports Illustrated in the summer of 2011. Our resident Yankee, Marcnatonio was born and raised in Leominster, Mass.