Frustration bubbles with another defeat

The 19th-ranked LSU women’s basketball team has faced a ranked opponent four times in the past four weeks and lost each of those games.

It’s getting old real fast for senior guard Jeanne Kenney, whose college career is quickly coming to an end.

On Sunday, the frustration of losing once again to a ranked team, this time No. 5 South Carolina, was compounded by the fact that the Gamecocks paraded to the free-throw line for 28 attempts to LSU’s four.

In the end, South Carolina outscored LSU 21-2 from the stripe en route to a 73-57 win in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in a game that slipped away from the Lady Tigers in the final 91/2 minutes.

“Sometimes, you can’t control what happens on the other side with getting to the free-throw line,” Kenney said. “That’s something we can fix. The fact that we shot only four free throws the entire game is a problem. Something has got to change there.”

Something else has to change as far as Kenney is concerned.

“You can’t get much lower than we are at this point for us, for LSU,” she said. “It’s a matter of us asking ourselves, ‘When is it enough?’ because I’m tired of losing.

“South Carolina is ranked (fifth) for a reason,” Kenney said of the Southeastern Conference-leading Gamecocks. “They’re a very good basketball team. They proved it tonight.”

Yes, they did.

South Carolina (23-2, 11-1 SEC) showed why it leads the league in field-goal defense in holding LSU (18-7, 7-5) to 36.2 percent shooting — including 28.6 percent in the first half.

On the other end, the Gamecocks used two impressive spurts at the end of each half to put a major crimp in the Lady Tigers’ plans for an upset.

In the first half, South Carolina used a 13-2 run in the final 3:16 to turn a 22-19 deficit into a 32-24 halftime advantage.

Then, when LSU twice cut into an eight-point deficit and pulled to within a basket — the second with 9:35 to play on a DaShawn Harden jumper to make it 46-44 — South Carolina responded.

The Gamecocks scored nine unanswered points, going repeatedly inside to 6-foot-4 forward Alaina Coates for six of those important points that helped them regain control of the game (55-44) with 6:42 left.

“When we were trying to cut into their lead (in the second half), I thought we had some momentum going in our favor,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “But with the swing of a couple of calls, the game shifted. It went from a one-possession game to a three-possession game in a matter of minutes.

“When you’re playing a team like South Carolina, it’s going to be hard to dig yourself out of a hole.”

That double-digit margin ballooned to 18 points three times as LSU, desperate to catch up, fouled and sent South Carolina to the line 14 times in the final three minutes. Like Kenney, Caldwell pointed to the disparity at the free-throw line as a factor in the outcome.

“There’s been a consistent theme in our losses,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got to examine what we’ve been doing wrong to foul and send our opponents to the free-throw line 20-plus times. That’s a problem for us.

“I think we foul, but I also think our opponents foul, too,” she said. “Whenever we’re in those types of situations, where there’s a lot of fouls called on us, it puts us at a disadvantage in winning. We can’t go to the free-throw line four times and allow our opponent to go 20-plus times.”

That wasn’t the only problem for LSU.

In addition to Coates, who had 13 points and a game-high eight rebounds, Aleighsa Welch and Tiffany Mitchell scored 19 points each in combining to go 12-of-18 from the field.

On the other side, Kenney and Theresa Plaisance were 12-of-25 from the floor with 15 and 14 points, respectively. The rest of the team was 13-of-44 for 29.5 percent against a South Carolina team that’s allowing opponents to shoot just 34.1 percent this season.

“At some point, we need to say enough is enough and buckle down,” Plaisance said. “A lot of things we’re struggling with are in our control, and we need to do a better job taking care of those things both offensively and defensively.”