When Coach Kin Mulkey was hired, the general consensus was the future would be bright for the long dormant LSU women’s basketball program. It is pretty clear now that indeed the future is as bright as advertised. The only shocking thing is that the present is downright blinding.
Even Mulkey was hesitant about LSU’s chances this year and repeatedly told LSU fans to have patience.
LSU has gone from a disappointing 9-13 to 14-1. The Tigers have an impressive 3-0 record versus AP Top 25 teams and have earned their highest ranking in seven years at No. 13 in the AP poll.
The Tigers have their best record since 2007-08 and their longest winning streak (13 xstraight) since that year too. That 2007-08 team was the last of LSU’s five consecutive Final Fours and was a senior laden team with five senior starters.
This year’s LSU team has that in common with the ‘08 final four team, which might not be an insignificant reason in explaining why LSU has been so good. These players are all very experienced.
Of course, not all five of the starters were here last year. Forward Autumn Newby and guard Alexis Morris transfererd in. Both have played a significant role in LSU’s turnaround. Newby with her team lead in rebounds and Morris with her ability to score and assist.
Those two and LSU’s returning starters of Khayla Pointer, Jailin Cherry, Faustine Aifuwa, and Awa Trasi (who had played off the bench this year) have created a strong senior laden core that might be able to carry the Tigers farther than they have been in a long time.
Last week, they took a huge step to getting there.
LSU opened up SEC play on the road against then #13 Georgia. The Tigers took an early lead before watching it slip away. LSU managed to come back and with the help of 21 points by Pointer and a 17 point-12 rebound double-double by Aifuwa and the Tigers persevered 68-62.
It was the last time either would play in Georgia, the home state of both five year starters.
The Tigers followed it up by hosting defending SEC regular season champions No. 23 Texas A&M.
While LSU struggled with its post players against A&M’s zone, the Tigers’ guards carried the load. Morris put up 30 against her former team (Morris originally played for Baylor followed by stints at Rutgers and A&M). Along with Morris, Pointer added 17 while Cherry scored 10 points in the final quarter to help LSU clinch a 75-66 comeback win over the Aggies.
The win broke a tie in the series versus the Aggies and gave LSU its 6th straight home win over a ranked A&M team (give former coach Nikki Fargas credit for at least that, she owned A&M).
The Tigers did in front of 7,400 fans. One of the largest crowds in the PMAC for women’s basketball in ages. Perhaps most importantly in the stands was the No. 1 recruit in the 2023 class, Mikaylah Williams.
Williams, a Bossier City native, is a huge target for coach Mulkey’s staff. She is the highest rated recruit from Louisiana since Seimone Augustus and having a top 25 win in front of a large crowd certainly will not hurt in helping land her.
Williams was not the only Mulkey recruit who got to see the red hot LSU team up close. Flau’Jae Johnson, the No. 26 recruit and an LSU signee for this class, attended the Georgia game.
Flau’Jae is a rapper and chose LSU in no small part because of LSU’s commitment to let her play basketball and pursue music. She has already worked with Boosie, an LSU favorite.
It is safe to say both of their eyes and many more will be on LSU’s next game.
On Thursday at 7 P.M., the No. 1 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks come to the PMAC. The Tigers have experienced a decade of futility against the Gamecocks having not won a game against them since January 2012. South Carolina is every bit as good as their ranking, in fact they are so good that they remained No. 1 despite a loss to an unranked team missing their best player.
That is because South Carolina is an impressive 6-0 versus top 25 teams.
The Gamecocks are led by the front runner for National Player of the Year in center Aliyah Boston. She averages a double-double with 16.9 ppg and 10.4 rebounds per game along with 43 blocks. If LSU can stymie her and get her in foul trouble, that is no problem for Carolina. Her backup was the ACC freshman of the year from last year before transferring in.
LSU will have its hands full in the post, but will have a slightly better matchup in the guards.
LSU’s duo of Pointer and Morris both could be WNBA draft picks so they match up better there. That being said South Carolina is stacked at guard too with Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson both being elite.
The Tigers can win. The PMAC will, and should, be packed for the game. Only 10 times has the PMAC had over 10,000 fans for women’s basketball, this game should be the 11th.
If LSU can play disciplined, make shots, force turnovers and not get destroyed in the paint, then they will be able to pull it out
No one expects LSU to beat the Gamecocks, but frankly no one expected LSU to be 14-1. They have already proven anything can happen.