LSU women’s basketball team is bracing for a lot of pressure from Kentucky team
Keeping possession of the ball hasn’t been easy for the LSU women’s basketball team, which will face a team today with a penchant for creating turnovers.
The Lady Tigers, whose 19.4 turnovers per game are the highest in the Southeasern Conference, host Kentucky at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The Wildcats boast a plus-12 turnover margin per game, and force an average of 29.3.
“We understand that Kentucky is one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers and converting on them,” LSU Coach Nikki Caldwell said. “We have worked extremely hard on ball discipline the past two days. There are a lot of times where we feel like we have to make a home-run pass or thread the needle, and we really need to be more of a patient team.”
LSU (14-8, 4-5) is facing No. 5 Kentucky at a difficult time. The Lady Tigers are in the midst of a five-game SEC losing streak, and the Wildcats are on a 13-game conference winning streak dating to last season. Kentucky is 10-0 in conference play for the first time, and its 21-2 start ties a program best.
“You still have to stay positive,” said junior guard Adrienne Webb, who led LSU scorers with 19 points against Florida in the Tigers’ last game. “You have to come into practice working hard, even though we do have a great team coming in on Sunday.”
The Wildcats’ gritty defensive pressure will be especially tough for the Lady Tigers, who lack healthy guards. Kentucky guard A’dia Mathies is an SEC Player of the Year candidate, averaging 15.2 points per game, and guard Bria Goss, an SEC Freshman of the Year candidate, is the conference’s leading freshman scorer, at 11.4 points per game.
“Their guard play is strong,” Caldwell said. “When you have great guard play, you typically have great leadership, which then filters to your post game. They do a terrific job in disrupting you and make you have to speed up. Their transition game is also very effective.”
LSU’s taller starting lineup, which they’ve used since the loss of senior guard Destini Hughes to a season-ending knee injury, has three players taller than 6 feet. It’s a stark contrast to Kentucky’s lineup, which has just one player taller than 6 feet.
The Wildcats make up for their lack of height by forcing steals and leading the SEC in scoring at 78.3 points per game.
“They’re not the biggest team in the country as far as height, but they play with the biggest heart,” Caldwell said. “That is a contributing factor to their record and success.”
Caldwell, an assistant coach at Tennessee for six years, credits Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell for the Wildcats’ impassioned play.
“I know Matthew really well,” Caldwell said. “I remember him working Coach (Pat) Summitt’s camps. I remember when he was a graduate assistant there at Tennessee, and he has done an exceptional job at Kentucky. He really has his team playing great basketball right now.”
The Lady Tigers have allowed at least 60 points in each of their past five conference losses, after allowing 50 points or fewer while beginning conference play on a four-game winning streak. LSU surrendered 81 points to Vanderbilt and 73 points to Florida in its past two games.
“We have about seven games left in the SEC regular season, and for us, we just have to bring it back to where we started in the beginning,” senior forward Courtney Jones said.