Slow starting LSU claims 90-59 win

Shanece McKinney effortlessly controlled Wednesday night’s opening tip, shooting the ball to LSU teammate Danielle Ballard for a wide-open layup in the opening seconds.

But not everything for the Lady Tigers was quite so easy.

Grambling tossed aside its 1-7 record coming into the night — and tossed basketballs from everywhere beyond the 3-point line — to stay within striking distance much of the first half, eventually running out of bullets as LSU pulled away for a 90-59 victory at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The Lady Tigers took control with a 15-0 run late in the first half keyed by their defensive efforts against Grambling’s perimeter game.

“I thought we had some lazy play,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “I felt as though us not identifying the basketball early led to quick ball reversal, and (Grambling) really did a great job of exploiting us and extending our defense.”

Most of the way, the visitors from Lincoln Parish had a much easier time draining shots from outside the 3-point arc than inside of it.

They opened 7-for-13 on 3-point attempts, but made only two of their first 14 shots from 2-point range.

But after Cierra Ceazer hit back-to-back 3’s to make it a 30-30 game with 7:25 left in the first half, Caldwell switched to a five-guard, man-to-man defense that held GSU scoreless more than seven minutes.

Grambling finished 9-of-21 from downtown after the 7-for-13 start.

“That’s the beauty of this team,” Caldwell said of the defensive adjustment. “We start Shanece McKinney and Theresa (Plaisance) because we want to go bigger and give ourselves that threat in the high-low action, but we also have the capability of switching up our defense and going smaller and quicker.”

LSU (7-3) stayed unbeaten in four all-time meetings against Grambling while matching a season best with its third straight win. The Lady Tigers will look to make it four in a row when McNeese State visits the PMAC on Friday for a 2 p.m. tip-off.

“Toward the end of the first half, we started realizing we had to get stops,” LSU guard Adrienne Webb said. “We did that by turning it up on defense.”

Ballard led the LSU offense, pouring in 21 points and adding six rebounds. She also had seven steals, tying the record for steals in a game by an LSU freshman.

Webb finished with 19 points, enough to put her over 1,000 for her career. She is the 30th player in Lady Tigers history to reach that milestone.

Plaisance, who entered the night as the Southeastern Conference’s second-leading scorer, continued her strong start, hitting for 18 points — right at her season average — to go with five assists and four rebounds.

Grambling got most of its offensive pop from three players who got hot from outside.

Ceazer had 18 points, going 6-for-15 on 3-pointers. Kamiya Burwell went for 15 points, making 3 of 6 from downtown. Jessica Watkins added 14 points, six of them on the only two 3’s she tried.

Grambling continued a treacherous early season schedule under Patricia Cage Bibbs, back on the GSU sideline after a 15-year hiatus, with its eighth road game in nine outings. The Tigers begin Southwestern Athletic Conference play Jan. 2 at Alabama A&M.