With 7:39 remaining and San Diego State clinging to a two-point lead Sunday night in an NCAA Tournament first-round game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, LSU sophomore guard Jeanne Kenney stopped, turned to her left facing the crowd, and yelled, "Let's go."
It was Kenney 2 minutes earlier who hit two free throws, which started a 12-0 run for the Lady Tigers that spanned over 6:29.
Kenney, a 5-foot-8 point guard from Baton Rouge, played in his first ever NCAA Tournament game, and her efforts helped No. 5-seeded LSU defeat No. 12 San Diego State 64-56. The Lady Tigers advance to play No. 4 Penn State at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"I was excited to get a pin when I walked in the door," Kenney joked after the game. "Being in the NCAA tournament for the first time is definitely a wonderful experience."
Kenney scored 10 points, the sixth time she's scored in double-figures on the season, along with 4 assists and 3 rebounds in 28 minutes of play.
It wasn't all smooth for Kenney. Minutes into the second half, she got elbowed in the mouth when she attempted to corral a rebound. The non-deliberate blow left Kenney with a mouth full of blood as trainers rushed to her assistance.
But she was back on the court soon after she walked off wobbly and bloodied.
"Jeanne got caught really good unintentionally, and you weren't going to keep her off the floor," LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. "They [team] don't show a softness and that's how we play the game."
Soon after Kenney re-entered the game, she connected on a 3-pointer to close San Diego State's lead to 43-39, one of many key plays from Kenney.
In the first half after LSU built an eight-point lead, the Lady Aztecs came storming back. Courtney Clements scored 14 points in the first half, and SDSU took a 27-22 lead on a Chairese Culberson jump shot. LSU's Krystal Forthan scored on a fade-away jump shot to cut the deficit to 27-24.
Kenney did the rest, tying the game going into halftime 27-27 with a big 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining.
"You need your underclassmen to step up," Caldwell said. "I thought Jeanne Kenney did, (Bianca) Lutley did and (Theresa) Plaisance as well in the first half in giving us some quality minutes."
San Diego State cruised out of halftime and controlled most of the first 14:46 after halftime. Chelsea Hopkins added 12 of her 16 points in the second half and the Lady Aztecs held a 43-36 lead with 12:35 remaining.
"Collectively when we were down at one point we just said we were going to stay together and that's what we ultimately did," Kenney said.
The Lady Tigers clawed their way back, due in large part to success at the free-throw line. LSU shot 22-of-28 from the line in the second half. LaSondra Barrett had 13 made free throws, while Courtney Jones had 5, followed by Taylor Turnbow, Kenney and Plaisance with two each.
For Kenney, it was the dominant LSU crowd that played a special role in the come-from-behind win. With the game tied 47-47, Kenney committed a foul on Kalena Tutt. The contact re-aggravated Kenney's injury to her mouth right before a timeout.
On the ensuing possession, the swarming LSU defense stymied SDSU and forced a 24-second shot clock violation as the PMAC got the loudest it had all night.
"Definitely playing on our home court is a real, real advantage," Kenney said. "We have the best fans in the world. I thought they were our sixth man on the court (Sunday)."
Caldwell has said on numerous occasions that she needed Kenney, along with Lutley, to step up. Coming into this game averaging 5.4 points and 2.8 assists per game, Kenney did just that, and helped her Lady Tigers advance to second round in the NCAA tournament.
Making it count
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