Rekindled energy

After five straight SEC losses, the Lady Tigers come back from the brink and stun No. 5 Kentucky 61-51.

After a loss earlier in the week, LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said her team's mental tank was running on fumes.

On Sunday afternoon in front of 5,114 gold-wearing fans, the Lady Tigers came out with a high-spirited, energetic output and stunned No-5 ranked Kentucky 61-51.

The win is arguably Caldwell's most impressive since taking over this season, and put an end to LSU's five-game SEC losing streak while halting Kentucky's undefeated conference record and 10-game winning streak.

More importantly, it was how the Lady Tigers (15-8, 5-5 SEC) won that was impressive.

Coming into the pre-Super Bowl matchup, LSU averaged 12 made free throws a game and were hitting at 68% clip. Against the Lady Wildcats (21-3, 10-1), LSU more than doubled its average and shot a stellar 80.6% from the stripe.

"We did a great job of capitalizing at the free-throw line," Caldwell said. "I was proud of this group for shooting 80%."

Kentucky attempted 11 free throws, although the Lady Wildcats took twice as many field-goal attempts as LSU with 60.

The Lady Tigers started fast as they looked for most of their offense to come on the inside. Six of LSU's first points all came in the paint off layups by Swayze Black and Shanece McKinney.

Jeanne Kenney

With 13:38 to go in the first half, guard Jeanne Kenney hit up a jump shot to push the Lady Tigers' lead to 10-2. Keeney led all scorers in the first half with 9 points. But on this afternoon it was about the defense.

Later in the half, McKinney, who finished the night with 4 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks, swatted a Kentucky shot from the baseline all the way out-of-bounds near midcourt.

"I went with a defensive unit to start the game," Caldwell said. "I wanted to set the tone right off the bat. We are going to defend and we are going to rebound against this team."

And oh was the tone set.

The Lady Tigers held Kentucky, a team that scored 82 points in its previous two games, to 18 points in the first half. The Lady Wildcats had as many turnovers (8) as field goals made as they shot 27.6% from the field and 12.5% from beyond the 3-point arc.

"We never seemed to have much confidence against them (Sunday)," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. "They came in and played harder and totally took any confidence that we had away quickly, but I think their size and athleticism and just their will to win was really what was most impressive to me."

With a 20-18 lead at halftime, the Lady Tigers came out and put the game in the hands of Webb and LaSondra Barrett.

Barrett was plagued with foul trouble in the first half and saw the court for just 6 minutes. However, she proved to be the workhorse in the second half heavily, carrying the point-guard duties in 19 minutes of action.

Caldwell placed Barrett into the point guard position after the Lady Tigers were without guard Bianca Lutley, who missed the game due to a team violation.

"Coming into the game we were shorthanded, but I think we played with an attitude of we had nothing to lose," Barrett said. "You saw that from everybody. We feed off of each other, so when you see that, it's contagious and then the crowd was into it."

LaSondra Barrett

Barrett recorded her first points when she got her own rebound and connected on a layup to give the Lady Tigers a 33-29 lead at the 12:45 mark. Barrett finished with 12 points, six of them from the free-throw line, and also chipped in with 2 assists.

But it was Barrett's ball-handling ability against a constant full-court pressure that was gave Kentucky problems.

"LaSondra Barrett is a great player and has been for four years," Mitchell said. "I'm not sure of how good of a point guard she is, and she looked like one of the best of all-time. We just could not take the ball from her, we could not affect her, we couldn't speed her up. We couldn't do anything."

Meanwhile, Webb also exploded in the second half after the 5-foot-9 junior guard had a quiet first half with 3 points. Webb came out and hit multiple baseline jumpers, which she later called her sweet spot on the floor, to lengthen the lead for the Lady Tigers.

With LSU holding a 37-34 lead with 10:12 remaining, Webb hit back-to-back shots to put LSU up 40-34. Then while clinging to a 46-42 lead with 5:55 left, it was Webb again from the baseline.

Webb said that she had to make an adjustment after the first half by getting open and being more aggressive in the second half.

With 3:38 remaining the game theoretically ended when senior forward Taylor Turnbow, who ended with 7 points and 5 rebounds, scored on a layup that gave the Lady Tigers a 50-45 lead. The LSU women connected on six straight free throws by Webb, Barrett and Turnbow respectively to put this one away.

"This is obviously a great win for the program and I can't tell you how proud I am of this group for playing a very disciplined game," Caldwell said. "This team has a fight in them and a never give up attitude and I feel that was the reason why we were successful (Sunday). Because we believed in their program, in their system, and most importantly we believed in each other."

The win over Kentucky marks the Lady Tigers' first against a top-5 team at home since they beat Ohio State 75-51 in 2006.

Caldwell said doesn't want her team to become complacent and wants her team to use the victory as a stepping stone.

"I don't want this to be a one-hit wonder type win," Caldwell said. "They need to know this is how we are going to play from here on out."

LSU is back in action at 6 p.m. Thursday when Mississippi State comes to the PMAC.

ANALYSIS: LSU digs deep for much-needed win


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