For a season opener, Sunday’s women’s basketball contest between LSU and Wichita State definitely had a postseason intensity to it.
A taut, physical affair throughout finished with the Lady Tigers on the winning end of a 72-70 score that left both coaches feeling their teams would be better for having played each other.
“Coach (Jody) Adams really had them ready to come in here and win,” said Caldwell, beginning her second season at LSU. “They executed when they needed to and did the little things.
“We will appreciate the win, but there are a lot of things we have to work on. We are going to take this game and really dissect it in a hurry to get better.”
Adams, who played with Caldwell at Tennessee, where they helped the Lady Volunteers win the 1991 NCAA championship in New Orleans, said for her squad the game was a matter of inches between winning and losing.
“An inch being the details we’ve talked about pretty much all year long,” Adams said.
“They exposed us and helped teach us about those inches, and they did that late in the game.”
LSU opened on an 8-0 run keyed by three baskets from senior Bianca Lutley.
But the Shockers chipped away, pulling within 35-34 at halftime on a 3-pointer Jessica Diamond.
Wichita State stepped up the offensive pressure in the second half to lead by as many as six points, the last time on a jumper in the lane by Jazimen Gordon to put the Shockers up 57-51 with 8:36 left.
But LSU rallied, going up for good 62-61 on a drive by junior Jeanne Kenney.
After an official time out at the 2:44 mark, senior Adrienne Webb drained a 3-pointer from the left wing for a 65-61 lead, stretching her arms out like wings as the small but feisty crowd of 2,509 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center roared its approval.
“I think we had just run action we call ‘duck,’ ” Webb explained. “Jeanne came off the ball screen, and my person hedged toward her, so I was wide open for that shot, and I knew I could hit it.”
A Kenney free throw helped LSU seal the win up 72-67 with 11.1 seconds remaining. Wichita State’s Chyna Turner banked home a 3-pointer with two seconds left for the final margin.
LSU ran a new motion offense Sunday for the first time in a real game, no one more in motion than Lutley.
Making her first career start in the PMAC before a group of family members who drove in from her hometown of Pensacola, Fla., Lutley played two guard positions, forward and even a little center, her determined drives to the basket resulting in a career- and game-high 19 points.
“Bianca really stepped up in a big way today in being the aggressive guard,” Caldwell said. “I told her she has to be ready to play every position, because she brings that versatility to our team.”
Coming into the season, the experienced backcourt of Webb, Lutley and Kenney were expected to be the Lady Tigers’ offensive engine.
They didn’t disappoint. Webb, an All-Southeastern Conference preseason selection, added 17 points while Kenney had 13.
Forward Theresa Plaisance made just 3 of 16 shots from the field and had eight points but piled up 15 rebounds to beat her previous career high by 10. It was the most rebounds by a Lady Tiger since Kristen Morris had 16 in a 2009 NCAA tournament game against Wisconsin Green Bay.
“I think she was trying to pad her stats,” Caldwell said jokingly of all of Plaisance’s misses.
The game was pockmarked by fouls throughout, 48 between the two teams. No one fouled out, but five of LSU’s 10 players finished with three or more fouls, underlining the liability that is the Lady Tigers’ short bench.
“We like more of a physical game, and we would like the game to stay on pace and not be so disruptive,” Caldwell said. “We are going to work on not fouling as much and stopping the game, but I think it’s an early situation.”
Wichita State had four players in double figures: Diamond and Michelle Price with 13 points each, Gordon with 12 and Alex Harden with 10.
LSU now hits the road for a four-game road trip, starting with a game Friday at Hampton.
The Lady Tigers don’t return home until they host North Carolina State on Dec. 2.
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