Lady Tigers stumble at home - lose 61-55

If you would have told LSU associate head coach Pokey Chatman that Vanderbilt's leading scorer would have more fouls than points, she would have told you that she likes her team's chances. <br><br> The Lady Tigers held Jenni Benningfield to two points on 1-7 shooting, but the inside/outside combination of Carla Thomas and Abi Ramsey combined for 39 points in a 61-55 Vanderbilt victory.

The 14-point victory by the Commodores (17-7, 5-6) continues a trend of recent domination over the Lady Tigers. LSU (20-5, 8-3) has lost seven of seven out of their last nine meetings against Vanderbilt.


In one of the uglier first halves of the season, both teams were plagued with turnovers and poor shooting. After opening the game with a Doneeka Hodges 3-pointer, the Tigers would go scoreless for over three and a half minutes and would go without a field goal for over six minutes.


While LSU struggled to score points early, a stifling defense kept the Tigers in the game. The Commodores did not hit a field goal for the first 5:17 of the first half.


After a Seimone Augustus jumper tied the game at 16 with 6:31 remaining in the first half, Thomas converted a three-point play to give Vanderbilt a 19-16 lead. The three-point play proved to be the go-ahead basket; the Commodores never relinquished the lead it gave them.


The Tigers shot 40.7-percent (11-27) in the first half and had 13 turnovers, including five by Temeka Johnson.


Two free throws by Wendlyn Jones with three minutes remaining in the second half cut the Vanderbilt lead to three, but that was the closest the Tigers would get. A 3-pointer by Ramsey on the ensuing Commodore possession pushed the lead back up to six to all but seal the game.


Augustus was the leading scorer for LSU with 18 points on 9-14 shooting and Johnson added 14 points to go along with four assists.


Johnson said after the game that the entire team was not prepared to play and it showed with 18 turnovers.


"I can't sit here and talk about Vanderbilt," Johnson said. "We didn't' come ready to play today. We didn't come as a team. It wasn't one individual. It wasn't one particular person. It was everybody. That lack of effort in the first half got us what we got in the second half—the loss.


"We didn't' take care of the ball, we didn't rebound. We didn't do the little things that go us where we are now."


Augustus said that the Tigers turnover problems were more lack of execution on their part.


"We just didn't play well," Augustus said. "We didn't execute. We didn't do the things we needed to do. We know we should have came out and played tougher, harder, had more heart, did the things we've been doing all year and getting rebounds but we didn't do that tonight."


Despite Vanderbilt coming into the game on a four-game losing streak, Chatman said she realized tat game was going to be very tough.


"It doesn't matter if they had a four-game losing streak, five, six, or seven," Chatman said. "It's the SEC. It's a great program with great players. We knew they were going to bring the energy. Any team that puts up 88 against Tennessee, even though it's a loss, it has to concern you.


"I look at the stat sheet, and you hold someone to 61 but you can only score 55, that's a matter of being ready to play and executing."


While her team struggled with turnovers and did not shoot the ball well, Chatman said the team's offensive struggles were a combination of things.


"I dare not take any credit away from Vanderbilt in terms of how they defended us," Chatman said. "They got deflections. They had gaps that appeared to close because we were a step slow. I thought we had an advantage there, but we didn't seem to have that any point tonight. And we never quit got over the hump.


"We had to spend so much energy coming back, and we had breakdowns. That's going to cost you. You look at the stat sheet and we hold Benningfield to tow and we lose by six. That tell you right there that you didn't come close to carrying out anything we do in terms of defensively or offensively."


Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb was happy with her team's effort, particularly after a heart-breaking 94-88 loss against Tennessee.


"I am just really proud of our effort and energy that our girls came into the game with and that they maintained it for 40 minutes," Balcomb said. "We have practicing well and have been practicing hard and we are getting more and more confident and aggressive and I think that showed today. We carried it through tonight against a very good team on the road with a very good crowd."


Thursday's game was also marked the first game since the announcement that head coach Sue Gunter will take a medical leave of absence for the remainder of the 2004 season.


"I think it's the best thing for her," Johnson said of Gunter's absence. "Of course we would love to have Coach Gunter on the bench. She's with us regardless and we still have confidence in Coach Chatman and Coach Starkey and Coach Berry and Joe (Carvalhido) and everyone else. As long as we know Coach Gunter is at home doing what she needs to do to come back or get herself better for the most part, I'm OK with that."


Augustus said she looks forward to having Gunter back to 100-percent for the 2004-05 season.

"We want whatever's best for Coach and if Coach needs to sit out then that's what she needs to do," Augustus said. "We want to see her at 100 percent. We don't' want her to rush back if she doesn't need to be back. Coach Starkey and Coach Chatman have been doing a good job so far. We just want her back well."

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