Struggling Lady Tigers need a win, any win

The pessimist says the LSU Lady Tigers are in deep trouble.

They have loss three straight and four of their last five to drop to 18-8 overall and 7-6 in Southeastern Conference play after making the mid-conference turn a game out of first place with a 6-2 record.

The Lady Tigers have had their teeth ground down trying to chew their way through what the website RealTimeRPI.com ranks as the nation’s toughest schedule. They have difficulty stopping the crucial basket and can go painfully long stretches without scoring, none more excruciating than in Thursday night’s game at Georgia.

After an early 4-2 LSU lead, the Bulldogs sprinted away like Usain Bolt on a 20-0 run to take a seemingly insurmountable 22-4 lead midway through the first half. Coming off a 73-67 loss at home to South Carolina in which the Lady Tigers were done in by late first- and second-half scoring spurts by the visiting SEC leaders, it seemed the Lady Tigers had reached a season low point. Where they go from here could be anyone’s guess.

The optimist says that from the 9:53 point of the first half in Athens, LSU may have found rock bottom and started to bounce up.

The Lady Tigers outscored Georgia 23-14 the rest of the half to close within 36-27 at the break and would have been even closer had not officials waived off a 3-pointer by Raigyne Moncrief at the halftime buzzer. LSU outscored Georgia 40-35 in the second half, coming with two points on a couple of occasions before falling 71-67.

If you’re the coach of a team that’s lost three straight and four of five you can either give in to pessimism and start thinking about what next season may bring or you can look for the good in even the darkest situations.

LSU coach Nikki Caldwell, though justifiably frustrated with some of the things her team is doing, has opted for the latter.

“The first 10 minutes it was Georgia executing,” Caldwell said Friday, a late-night flight and the stacking defeats doing little if anything to permeate her tone or attitude. “But I felt as though the other 30 minutes of the game we competed.

“My kids played hard. They didn’t give up. I saw players trying to win a basketball game. So that is very promising. That’s something we can take away from that game.”

Before anyone gets the idea that losses in any way should be acceptable for Caldwell and her program, they should not. LSU has too proud a women’s basketball tradition for losing to ever be tolerated, and frankly this team with a blend of experience, talented youth and depth could be labeled as underachieving if it doesn’t equal what last year’s team did by reaching the NCAA Sweet 16.

But as in Caldwell’s first two seasons, these Lady Tigers may need to feel a cold concrete wall at their back before they push back. They aren’t exactly there yet. They still have a lofty No. 6 RPI according to RealTimeRPI.com, but they need a win.

Any win.

Next up for LSU is a home date at 1 p.m. Sunday against Arkansas. The Razorbacks started 13-0 against a pillow fight of a non-conference schedule but are tied for 12th in the SEC with a 4-9 record. LSU not only needs a win just for the sake of winning but needs to, as Caldwell says, put some fuel back in its confidence tank before Tennessee comes to town Thursday for the Lady Tigers’ regular-season home finale. LSU finishes the season at Alabama before heading to Atlanta for the SEC women’s tournament.

Even if they don’t win another game they’re virtually certain of returning home to play in an NCAA tournament first-round game. But they need to do more than that if they don’t want their NCAA trip end before it begins.

“We’ve got to do what we did in the last 30 minutes of the Georgia game for 40 minutes,” Caldwell said.

It’s time for the Lady Tigers to push back.

The pessimist wonders if they can.

The optimist says they’re just getting warmed up.