Lady Tigers say they have more to do

Associated Press photo by Thomas Graning -- LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said she wants to see 40 minutes of basketball from the Lady Tigers.
Associated Press photo by Thomas Graning -- LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said she wants to see 40 minutes of basketball from the Lady Tigers.

The LSU Lady Tigers approach the halfway point of the Southeastern Conference season having done enough to be in the thick of the championship race but knowing they must do more if they hope to finish on top.

The No. 14 Lady Tigers (16-4, 5-2 SEC) come into Thursday’s 7 p.m. home game with Mississippi State (15-6, 2-5) a game out of first place in the conference standings after a pair of wins over Auburn and Ole Miss.

LSU won those games by 11 points and 10 points, respectively, turning up the defensive pressure on both opponents to pull away late. But the Lady Tigers trailed both games at halftime.

That fact has provided coach Nikki Caldwell with a rally point from which to demand more out of a team that has all the championship pieces: a talented frontcourt, strong perimeter play, experience and depth.

“We’ve got to be a team that puts together 40 minutes,” Caldwell said. “It’s important for us to continue to grow as an efficient offensive and defensive team,

“Each night in this conference is competitive. We’ve got to have daily improvement and keep moving forward to be the best team we can be.”

The game will be televised on CST and can be heard locally on WBRP-FM 107.3.

“We’re trying to play a whole game and not just one half,” senior forward Shanece McKinney said. “Our major goal is to be more consistent.

“We know the highest level we can play at. Lately we’ve been a one-half team. We need to put two halves together of great basketball and stop playing to the level of our competition.”

In Mississippi State, LSU faces a team that is only one game out of last place in the SEC but still poses some significant challenges.

The Bulldogs lead the SEC and rank fifth nationally in turnover margin at plus-7.7 per game. State also is second in the SEC with 10.9 steals per game.

While LSU has enjoyed an impressive season behind the 3-point line, second-best in the SEC at 39.8 percent, State holds opponents to 26.6 percent 3-point shooting, good for third-best in the conference.

“Mississippi State has a balanced attack,” Caldwell said. “They have a post game, players who can make shots, and they do a nice job disrupting you with their pressure.”

Then there is 6-foot-4 junior center Martha Alwal, one of the SEC’s top post players with 15.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game.

“They have a great post player inside with Martha,” said LSU’s Theresa Plaisance, the current SEC player of the week after a pair of double-doubles in her past two games. “We have to do a lot to shut them down. We have to get out in front early and limit her touches. We need to keep their guards on the perimeter and not let them penetrate inside.”

McKinney limped off the court Sunday after Ole Miss’ Tia Faleru fell on her leg, rolling McKinney’s ankle.

The LSU senior, who has a team-best 29 blocked shots to go with 7.8 points per game, said she is fully ready to go against State.

Notes

Former LSU women’s basketball publicist Bill Martin was recently named the sports information director at Mississippi State. … LSU has dominated the series with State, leading 45-6 overall with seven straight wins overall. … According to the website RealTimeRPI.com, LSU’s strength of schedule is ranked No. 2 nationally behind only Ohio State, while Mississippi State’s is ranked No. 112. … LSU is the highest ranked team according to the NCAA’s RPI. State is No. 88. … The Lady Tigers’ next game is Sunday at No. 13 Kentucky.