Jeanne Kenney punched the air in semi-disappointment midway through the second half as her lob for Adrienne Webb sailed high and long over the end line.
It was one of the few times the LSU players have failed their seniors down the stretch of a season that seems to gain momentum each time the Lady Tigers step on the court.
Thursday night’s game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center was senior night for Webb and fellow guard Bianca Lutley, their final regular-season home game as LSU players.
But instead of an emotional farewell, there is every reason to expect that Webb, Lutley and what’s left of the Lady Tigers — down from 10 to only eight available players — will be back in the PMAC later this month for a dramatic curtain call.
A 76-42 romp over a spiraling Alabama team was more affirmation than validation for LSU, which improved to 18-10 overall and 9-6 in Southeastern Conference play with its season-high fifth straight win.
Three weeks ago, the Lady Tigers were playing for their postseason lives. Now they go into Sunday’s regular-season finale at suddenly slumping Texas A&M — the No. 13 Aggies lost their third in four tries Thursday at Tennessee 82-72 — playing for seeding in next week’s SEC tournament in Duluth, Ga., and in the NCAA first- and second-round games set for the PMAC later this month.
Tipoff Sunday is scheduled for 1 p.m. on the SEC Network.
LSU lost to A&M and Tennessee in back-to-back games to start February, but those seem like distant memories for the Lady Tigers now.
Webb said her team is playing with a confidence that could bode well for LSU in postseason play.
“When we’re at our best, we’re one of the top teams in the country,” said Webb, who rung down this chapter of her career in style with a game-high 21 points. “You can see the growth now and the mindset is that we are.”
Lutley added 12 points while junior forward Theresa Plaisance posted her sixth double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
It was Plaisance’s 27th straight double figure scoring game, the longest such streak for an LSU player since Seimone Augustus wrapped up her stellar career in 2006. Plaisance did lose the SEC scoring lead to Tennessee’s Meighan Simmons, now trailing her 17.8 points per game to 17.6.
Freshman Danielle Ballard added 14 points and five steals, giving her 87 for the season. Ballard leads the SEC in steals and now has the LSU freshman record, eclipsing by one the mark set by Joyce Walker in 1980-81. Ballard is six steals shy of the school record held by Marie Ferdinand, who had 93 in 1999-2000.
After honoring Webb and Lutley in a pregame ceremony, LSU took the fight to Alabama, jumping to a 13-0 lead at the 15:51 mark on a basket by Ballard.
The Crimson Tide briefly chopped the Lady Tigers’ lead down to 15-8 on a fastbreak basket by Kaneisha Horn. But Lutley blunted Bama’s momentum with a fastbreak basket of her own as LSU outscored the visitors 24-11 the rest of the way for a 39-19 halftime lead.
By the 8:04 mark of the second half LSU built its biggest lead, 67-32, on a jumper by Anne Pedersen, one of just three backups the Lady Tigers have.
Kenney, battling a stress reaction in her left foot, came off the bench for the second straight game. She scored just four points in 13 minutes but grabbed six rebounds — LSU outboarded its eighth straight opponent by a 58-35 count — and took a pair of charges. Kenney has taken at least two charges in each game of the Lady Tigers’ five-game winning streak.
It was Kenney who made an impassioned, Tim Tebow-like speech in the locker room following a heartbreaking 64-62 loss to Tennessee on Feb. 7,
“Jeanne spoke up after the loss and basically said that, from this game forward, she would do everything she could for Adrienne and Bianca to go out on the biggest stage they could possibly go out on,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “Since then, our team has done that. That’s what those two mean to our team.”
LSU goes into the final game of the regular season tied with Vanderbilt (18-9, 9-6) for sixth in the SEC. The Lady Tigers hold the tiebreaker for the No. 6 seed in the SEC tournament because they beat Vandy in January. LSU will be the No 6 seed with a win or a Vandy loss Sunday; the Commodores play at Georgia.
Daisha Simmons led Alabama (12-16, 2-13) with 10 points. The Crimson Tide lost its ninth straight this season and 16th straight overall to the Lady Tigers.
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