The No. 6 LSU Tigers women’s basketball team is 25-4 and 13-3 in SEC play. The Tigers were 9-13 and 6-8 in SEC play a year ago.
But you probably already knew that. There has been a remarkable surge of energy around the long dormant sleeping giant of the SEC.
The resurgence of the team has been remarkable and there is extraordinarily little question that it would not have happened without head coach Kim Mulkey.
Mulkey has changed up the way LSU plays offense by putting in more screens, especially away from the top of the post, and increasing movement from players without the ball. It has led to a +12 points per game increase in scoring compared to last season.
Along with the offensive changes, the Tigers have ditched the 2-3 matchup zone for a true man-to-man defense. The Tigers at times have been stifling on defense. In their win over No. 25 Georgia nearly three weeks ago, LSU went on a 17-3 run to close out the game for a win.
It is led to a relatively shocking turnaround. Many people believed that the three-time national championship winning head coach (more than the entire rest of the SEC combined) would take the program back to national prominence. Very few thought it would be in season one with a roster with very few Mulkey players.
While Mulkey’s players, freshman center Hannah Gusters and junior guard Alexis Morris, have played important roles in LSU’s lineup (saying Morris has played a vital role in LSU’s lineup is almost an understatement) it has been the players who stayed after Fargas left that have been key to helping LSU back.
None more than fifth year senior Khayla Pointer, who is the only player in LSU history with over 1500 points, 500 rebounds, and 500 assists. Pointer came to LSU to play for her aunt Fargas and stayed even after Fargas left.
She has given everything for LSU, playing for the Tigers even with the death of her father. She is one of the best point guards in the country and a nominee for the Nancy Lieberman award. She is second only to Temeka Johnson in career assists.
Along with Pointer, fifth year seniors center Faustine Aifuwa and Jailin Cherry have shown significant improvement. Cherry has more than doubled her point total this season. Aifuwa has closed her career second only to Sylvia Fowles in blocks.
Graduate transfer Autumn Newby, a friend and AAU teammate of Pointer, has been a force on the boards, an area LSU had problems with in 2020-21.
It has taken LSU to new heights and the chance to host the first two rounds in the very friendly confines of the PMAC. LSU has had over 100,000 fans attend the PMAC this season which is more than the previous four seasons combined.
While fan support has helped, it is hardly the only reason LSU has improved. LSU is 14-2 at home and 11-2 away from it. They have been just as strong away from the PMAC as in it.
The Tigers will need the friendly confines in the future. Only four players have ever played in the NCAA tournament and other than Morris, none have played more than 20 minutes.
The top 16 seeds in the nation host. LSU has locked it up. Getting to play in front of the LSU fans in a packed PMAC will definitely help ease them in.
Along with improvements on the court, off the court improvements have happened as well. LSU complied a top ten recruitment class. It will be big in replacing LSU’s four senior starters who will not be back. Only Morris will return from the starting lineup.
Players like Flaujae Johnson, an All-American, will play big roles next season if LSU will continue its upsurge. Along with Johnson, LSU has targeted the no. 1 recruit in the 2023 class, Bossier City native Mikaylah Williams as a key to maintaining this success.
Williams has been to several LSU games this season, including the sellout against Florida. She would be one of the highest recruits in program history.
LSU locked up the 2 seed in the SEC and will play at 6 Central in the SEC Tournament’s quarterfinal round against the winner of Kentucky-Mississippi State.