LSU took care of business before halftime with an stunning 29-0 run, holding the Bulldogs scoreless for almost 14 minutes while turning a 9-8 contest into a 37-9 rout. As the opening period wound down the only question was would the home team get into double-digits by intermission.
They didn't, as senior guard Tan White missed a pair of free throws at 23 seconds. While there are no records on the subject, it was believed to be the lowest production by a Ladydog team in a full half of play.
"They're good," said White of the victors. "They have an all-around team, they play well together. At the same time we didn't play our best game, if we had played the way we did against Vanderbilt it would have been a better game."
The Bulldogs were coming off a heartbreaking homecourt defeat after losing to Vanderbilt in double-overtime Thursday night. Yet none used that letdown as an excuse, and in the aftermath of this blowout it was hard to remember that the Bulldogs actually led much of the opening six minutes. Never by more than a couple of buckets, true, but State was still able to keep pace as long as both sides were missing shots and turning the ball over.
When guard Ebonie Ferguson threw in a trey at 13:56 it was a 9-8 count favor of the home team. But that was the final points of the period for State. The Dogs missed their next 17 shots with six turnovers, unable to get anything done against the taller, faster, sharper Tigers.
"We were really focused when we first came out," said White. "They made some transition buckets and got ahead. We got out of the defense, we slacked off and got out of it."
The visitors took a bit longer to get up to scoring speed, not netting a point for over three minutes until Augustus got free for a go-ahead layup at 11:04. A driving basket by Scholanda Hoston and Temeka Johnson jumper made the lead 14-9, when Warren committed her intentional and useless foul. The Tigers kept their attack simple, going right to the lane for obvious mismatches and easy buckets.
"I think we had the right mindset going in," MSU Coach Sharon Fanning said. "All of a sudden it's like a shark in the water when they see blood. I felt we panicked at that point."
An Augustus layup at 3:23 pushed the margin over 20 points, and Jones scored a layup with five ticks left for the halftime differential of 28 points. By no coincidence, LSU had outscored State 26-4 in paint-points, while the Bulldogs had shot just 14%, 4-of-29, in the half.
"I'm excited we were able to come in here and hold Mississippi State to nine points in the first half, after the way they played Thursday," said LSU Coach Pokey Chatman, who also enjoyed her view of the deciding blitz. "This team, when it locks in and doesn't get in a hurry, has been known to create some runs."
The second half was mostly formality, though White banged in enough long (sometimes very long) shots to pull the Bulldogs within 56-36 with six minutes left. White then missed a trey-try to shave the deficit further and Augustus converted a breaking layup to keep the afternoon under control. State's brief surge also encouraged LSU to leave Augustus on court long enough to tally 18 points, on her 20.3 average. The Tigers cleared their bench in the last three minutes.
LSU's Johnson also became the SEC's all-time assist leader, with her four scoring passes pushing her career total to 820.
White, the league scoring leader at 23.8 points, stayed in to the end and finished with 20 points but shot just 6-of-23. She left the court limping on an ankle turned last week at Mississippi, after accounting for half her team's offense this day. The next-best State scorer was forward Mamie McKiney at six points. The Bulldogs shot 26.4% on their own court, and were beaten 45-35 on the boards.
"I just didn't come out shooting as well as I did the other night," said White, who had 47 points in the loss to Vanderbilt. "We just have to dig deep and get ourselves better, and find a way to win."
The Bulldogs have a week to get over this loss before returning to league play. They are at Florida next Sunday. LSU hosts Tennessee this Thursday in a showdown that will likely decide the SEC regular season championship.
"It's a good time," Fanning said of the open date. "Blessing Chekwa has an injury, she's our best offensive rebounder. And it gives us time to improve. We can't do anything about what is behind us but we sure can get ready for the next game."