The most obvious pressure was a full-court press applied by coach Sue Gunter's team with 10 minutes left in Sunday's contest. The alternative method of pressure came in the form of crowd noise as a rowdy throng of 4,702 ignited the Lady Tigers in the second half as LSU ran past No. 18 Vanderbilt 70-59.
"I can't say how much I appreciate that many people coming in here to support us," Gunter said. "It does elevate our kids level of play."
Throughout the first half and part of the second, the Lady Tigers (17-1, 5-1 SEC) needed some sort of elevation. The Lady Dores led by five at the half, 33-28. LSU later found themselves trailing by seven, 41-34, with 15:58 to go in the contest.
"They were at home," Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb said. "It was a tremendous crowd and a super environment. I think the crowd energized them. Being on your home court, you are more confident overall, and I think that has a big difference."
The energy in the building was triggered by Gunter's call for pressure defense. The results were staggering as the Lady Tigers seized control of the game and harassed the Lady Dores into a sluice of turnovers. On the other end, LSU singed the nets offensively pulling away for the 11-point victory.
"They turned up the pressure," Balcomb said. "They started trapping and we missed some easy shots, including several wide open threes that we did not knock down."
LSU fought back from the 7-point, second half deficit and closed Vanderbilt's lead to just a single point, trailing 44-43 with 13:38 to go. In transition, though, Jenni Benningfield converted a layup to push the Lady Commodores lead back to three points, 46-43.
A minute later, a Benningfield turnover led to a chain of events totally changing the complexion of the game. Following the turnover by Benningfield, Aiysha Smith fed the ball into the hands of Doneeka Hodges. Hodges buried a long-range three-pointer, tying the game and shifting momentum in LSU's favor. Ironically, it would be the only three-point basket made in the game by either team.
"Doneeka did not have a good shooting day, especially from three-point range" Gunter said. "But how big was the one she did make. It was absolutely huge."
In the wake of Hodges' big shot, Gunter turned up the flames under LSU's pressure defense. Over the course of the remaining 8:35 left in the game, Vanderbilt was forced into seven turnovers.
Gunter said she actually wanted to go to the press in the first half, but early foul trouble delayed the initiation of the full court attack.
"We actually though about going to it early but then had to wait because we got into foul trouble so quickly with Aiysha (Smith) and Ke-Ke (Tardy) and Crystal (White)," Gunter said. "All of a sudden we realized that we could not afford to go to it and would have to wait and see if we could hang in there and we were lucky to only be down by five at halftime. Then we came out in the second half and began to establish something."
The pressure defense had devastating effects to Vanderbilt's offensive game plan. The Lady Dores had controlled the tempo of the game up to that point, but no longer.
"They are so athletic," Vanderbilt center Chantelle Anderson said. "So you just have to take your time. They have great athleticism. Against teams like that, you have to take your time and ball fake and keep your composure."
It wasn't the fact Vanderbilt had problems keeping their composure, a lack of depth plagued Balcomb's team, much like it has every other team LSU ahs played and beaten this season.
"It was a very physical game," Balcomb said. "They have more depth than we have, and that was noticeable in our shots. The pressure makes you go fast. We rushed our shots and also turned the ball over. That created the mistakes we made."
The Lady Tigers forced Vanderbilt into 25 total turnovers compared to just 16 by LSU. The Lady Tigers bench outscored the Lady Dores 18-2 and LSU managed 27 points off turnovers offset by Vanderbilt's 13.
One glaring statistic in the game was the fact the Lady Tigers held the Lady Commodores without a three-point basket.
"That was the No. 1 three-point shooting team in the conference," Gunter said. "We did a good job defending it."
Seimone Augustus led all LSU scorers with 21 points on 10-of-17 shooting. The outstanding freshman drew the attention of her competitors' coach as well as opposing players.<