After losing five of its top post players from last season, the LSU women’s basketball team entered the year with question marks on the interior.
The emergence of junior forward Theresa Plaisance as a go-to playmaker helped answer some of those concerns.
But only recently have players like Derreyal “Tank” Youngblood and Shanece McKinney started to come on, giving the Lady Tigers the kind of depth and flexibility on the post that has made them more of an all-around threat.
“We are starting to come together now,” Plaisance told reporters Tuesday. “You can feel the confidence building.”
LSU hopes the improved inside game continues to shine when the Lady Tigers (6-3) face Grambling (1-7) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“I’ve seen a team that has started to find its identity,” coach Nikki Caldwell said. “Defensively, we have done a good job of getting after our opponents. We are playing well with our post game. Theresa Plaisance has been solid for us. I like the play of Shanece McKinney as well. Our bench play has been very solid for us.”
Caldwell lost from last year senior forwards LaSondra Barrett, Courtney Jones, Swayze Black and Taylor Turnbow, and saw freshman forward Krystal Forthan leave the program with three years of eligibility remaining.
In stepped Plaisance, who served as a reserve behind her more veteran teammates as a freshman and sophomore.
Plaisance, 6-foot-5, ranks second in the Southeastern Conference in scoring at 17.7 points per game and leads the conference in blocks at 3.4 per contest. She leads LSU in rebounding at 8.6 per game.
But the Lady Tigers rank 14th in the SEC in offensive rebounding, 13th in defensive rebounding and 13th in rebounding margin.
They were outrebounded in four of their first games.
Caldwell used a four-guard lineup at times early in the season, but has paired McKinney, 6-4, inside with Plaisance the last two outings.
McKinney has responded, helping LSU to rebounding advantages in both games.
Then there’s Youngblood, whose efforts off the bench in those two games — 25 combined points, 14 combined rebounds — earned the 6-4 freshman from Harvey the state’s Player of the Week award.
The Lady Tigers turned in their most dominant effort on the boards this season in a 77-55 victory over Louisiana Tech on Sunday. LSU outrebounded Tech 53-36.
If they can keep it going against their second straight Lincoln Parish opponent, the Lady Tigers have a chance to continue building momentum as they edge toward SEC play.
LSU plays McNeese at home Friday, then takes a six-day break before facing Florida Gulf Coast on the road. Its last non-conference game is New Year’s Eve versus New Orleans.
“We still have to handle the task at hand and not look to our conference schedule just yet,” Caldwell said. “We have to take care of these remaining games in December and respect each opponent. We have tried to make practice fun and more game-like.”
Grambling looks to score its first win against LSU in four tries as a treacherous early schedule continues. GSU has played seven of its eight games on the road and lost all seven.
Choudrant native Patricia Cage-Bibbs is back on the Grambling sideline, where she won 244 games from 1984-97 and led GSU to six Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament titles. All told, she has 502 career wins.
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