What makes the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments so great is any team can end another’s season on any given day.
LSU (26-5) almost found that out the hard way as the Tigers had to rally back in the fourth quarter to avoid elimination at the hands of the No. 14 seed Jackson State in round one of the NCAA Tournament.
LSU watched a 17-point third quarter lead vanish entirely as Jackson State, who came into Saturday’s game winners of 21 straight game, grabbed a one-point lead heading into the fourth. The lead only grew from there as Jackson State went up 10 with less than five minutes remaining and LSU was staring down a stunning and unceremonious end to its season inside the PMAC.
But the Tigers, and Khayla Pointer specifically, refused to say die and went on a 19-3 run to close the game and give LSU an 83-77 win.
“They just won their very first game in the NCAA Tournament – these kids right here, this senior group,” Kim Mulkey said. “That’s important and we don’t need to forget that. They won and they’re experiencing something today and tonight and tomorrow the next game that they’ve never experienced in their life.”
Pointer hit a three from the elbow with just under 50 seconds remaining to give LSU an 80-77 lead. She finished the game with 26 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals. She’s the only player in the men or women’s NCAA Tournament to have a game like that in 20 years.
“This team, we’re relentless,” Pointer said. “We weren’t ready to go home.”
But Saturday wasn’t only the Khayla Pointer show, senior guard Jailin Cherry had a career-high 24 points, and Faustine Aifuwa went off for 17 points and 14 rebounds; and Alexis Morris was able to play 19 minutes off the bench and was 8-9 at the free throw line.
The women’s program has now won its first NCAA Tournament game in eight seasons. It wasn’t the most glamorous win but it’s something none of the players on the roster have experienced before. Now they’ll need to refocus and get ready for a Monday battle with Ohio State with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line.