LSU opened up SEC play exactly like you would want, by thoroughly dominating its opponent in front of a large, boisterous crowd. While the hoops team struggled with a bottom of the table team, the premier winter sport squad in Baton Rouge solidified its ranking among the top teams in the nation.
Gym school, baby.
Last year's squad spoiled us, as they opened the season with a series of 197 or better scores, while this year's edition is hovering around 196.5. This might be viewed as a step back, but last year's team didn't build on those scores and took a step backwards come the postseason. It is best not to peak too early. Instead, this team is making its mistakes, working on consistency, and plotting a course to improve as the season goes on.
It's also hard to call 3-0 overall and a top 10 ranking a problem. There's a lot of youth on this year's squad, and it is important for them to get that big match experience in now.
Ashleigh Gnat set the tone for the match early on with a perfect 10 on the vault. Sydney Ewing almost matched that score with a 9.975 of her own. However, those were the only two big scores on the vault, and LSU ended up with a 49.375. That's a very good score, but given the performance of the top two, this was a chance to put up a massive score instead.
But let's just watch a perfect 10, because it's sort of awesome:
Instead of putting the match away on the second rotation, LSU scuffled a bit on the bars. The team was forced to carry a 9.35, dragging down the rotation score to 48.800. That's not the biggest of deals, as we've covered repeatedly, this is a young squad and mistakes will happen. The big deal is that one of those low scores came from Ashleigh Gnat.
This is the third consecutive match in which Gnat has scored low in one rotation, obscuring a great performance on the other three. If anyone is the poster girl for the team's consistency issues right now, it's Gnat. And that's the one person it can't be. LSU needs Gnat to be great all of the time, not great three out of four times. That's a huge burden to place on her shoulders, but that's the reality of the situation given the roster. She's the one this team is going to turn to whenever the chips are down, and if she delivers, this team will go far.
In Gnat's favor is that she has one of the most important skills a great athlete can possess: she has no memory. Gnat immediately shook off the 9.35 on the bars and went 9.875 on the beam and then closed the night with a 9.95 on the floor. That's flat out ruthless. She gave Kentucky hope, and then cruelly stomped on those hopes until they died.
Myia Hambrick took the all-around again, despite not winning a single rotation. That just shows the value of consistency. Hambrick didn't have quite the highs of Gnat, who won two of the four individual events, but she also lacked the one low score dragging down her overall. Slow and steady wins the race.
Now, LSU has its biggest test of the season: a road meet in Fort Worth, the site of the national championships. The competition? Oklahoma again, along with Missouri, Stanford, and Washington. Four of the five teams competing are ranked in the top 25, and Oklahoma is fighting for the #1 ranking in the country. No weeks off.