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Lady Tigers Tournament Preview: vs Cal, 8pm, ESPN2

LSU is back in the tournament

After a horrific 2015-016 season, the Lady Tigers are back in the tournament tonight with a matchup against 9th-seeded Cal. The big turnaround is most likely credited to health, as the Tigers regained valuable talent and depth which was decimated by injuries last season.

This year’s Tiger team is powered by defense. The unit ranks 61st nationally in opponents points per game, yielding just 59.1 per contest. LSU ranks third in the SEC in total points allowed and leads the conference with 12.1 steals per game, good for fourth nationally. Driving that defense has been guard Raigyne Moncrief, who was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year after accumulating 105 steals, (3.42 Per game) most in the SEC, and fourth most nationally.

Offensively, LSU doesn’t score a lot but is efficient. The Tigers average 63.8 per game, 12th in the conference but their 42.6 field goal percentage ranks 71st nationally and 8th in the SEC. LSU doesn’t have much range, having attempted only 149 3pt shots, dead last in the SEC. LSU also ranks 16th in the nation in turnover margin at 6.03. Moncrief is also the most potent Tiger threat on the offensive end, leading the team with 16.0 PPG. NC State Transfer Chloe Jackson is just behind Moncrief with 13.2 per game.

Other Tigers to note include forward Alexis Hyder who leads the Tigers in blocks with 25, while averaging 8.9 PPG and 5.6 RPG. Forward Ayana Mitchell resume this season includes 8.1 PPG and 5.3 RPG.

The play of LSU forwards will be critical as Cal Center Kristine Anigwe is a force in the paint. The center is 12th nationally in scoring averaging 21.2 points per game while averaging 9.3 rebounds per game. Her 66 blocked shots were second most in the Pac-12. Cal also has two talented guards in Asha Thomas, who is the team’s top three-point shooter, and Mikayla Cowling, who runs the offense and leads the team in assists.

This game figures to be decided down low, givens Cal’s obvious strength with Angiwe. LSU is pretty bad in the rebound department, so minimizing second chance opportunities for Cal will be critical. However, the area where LSU has a big advantage is in the turnover department, given that LSU is strong in that area while Cal is in the negative in turnover margin. If the Tigers can deny the ball close to the basket, the game should be able to negate Anigwe and force Cal to rely on different options to score the threat.