“We have more guards who can handle the ball. Now we have an opportunity to move people around and run our motion offense with different looks.” nikki caldwell, LSU women’s coach
A new offense and a thin bench added an undercurrent of uncertainty to what otherwise would have been just another paint-by-numbers exhibition opener for the LSU Lady Tigers.
But the seven players available to LSU on Thursday night handled the challenges lobbed their way with expected ease, coasting to a 75-34 victory over Xavier of New Orelans before 1,073 fans at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
If those fans came out to see LSU’s new crop of freshmen players, they went home disappointed.
The Lady Tigers fielded just their seven veterans after second-year coach Nikki Caldwell suspended her three newcomers — center Derreyal Youngblood of John Curtis, guard Coco Baker of Helen Cox and guard Danielle Ballard — for unspecified violations of team rules.
Caldwell said the suspensions were for only one game. The three are expected to be able to play at 7 p.m. Tuesday when LSU hosts North Alabama in its second and final exhibition game.
“We definitely have some work to do,” Caldwell said. “But considering we had only seven available to play, the seven out there fought extremely hard and fought through fatigue. It was a tribute to their mental toughness.”
It was perhaps also a tribute to their mental dexterity as well.
With a guard-heavy lineup of seniors Adrienne Webb and Bianca Lutley starting in the backcourt with junior Jeanne Kenney of St. Michael the Archangel, Caldwell said the offense will feature more ball screens and backdoor cuts. It will also incorporate some of the triangle offense created by longtime NBA and former LSU men’s assistant coach Tex Winter.
“We have more guards who can handle the ball,” Caldwell said. “Now we have an opportunity to move people around and run our motion offense with different looks.”
All seven LSU players scored, with Webb leading the way with 18 points. Junior forward Theresa Plaisance added 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Forward Shanece McKinney, also a junior, had 12 points and nine rebounds, while Kenney had 11 points with 11 assists. Lutley also finished with 11 points.
LSU started quickly, jumping out to a 9-0 lead on a pair of baskets down low and a 3-pointer by Plaisance. A Kenney jumper with 13:34 left in the first half put the Lady Tigers in front by double digits to stay, 15-4, paving the way to a 37-12 halftime lead.
After layups by Webb and Kenney to start the second half, LSU never led by fewer than 30 the rest of the way.
Caldwell lamented a couple of defensive breakdowns that allowed Xavier to bury a trio of 3-pointers in the second half, but overall the Lady Tigers’ defense was predictably dominant. No Xavier players scored in double figures and the Gold Rush shot just 24.1 percent from the field.
Andraquay Quinnine led Xavier with nine points, followed by SiMon Franklin with seven. Carmen Holcombe led the Gold Rush with seven rebounds.
LSU played an exhibition against Xavier last year, winning that game 102-42.
As was the case for the Xavier game, there will be no admission charge for Tuesday’s exhibition.
LSU begins the regular season at home Nov. 11 against Wichita State before embarking on a four-game road trip.
The Gold Rush opens its regular season at 3 p.m. Sunday against Johnson & Wales University in Xavier’s new Convocation Center, following a 1 p.m. game between the Xavier men’s team and Morehouse.