In what was going to be the final game inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center regardless of result, the LSU women’s basketball team’s magical turnaround season came to a harsh end at the hands of Ohio State.
The biggest weakness on LSU’s team this season was defending the three-ball and that was the worst possible mismatch against Ohio State’s incredible shooting from three. The Buckeyes buried LSU to the tune of 10 threes on 22 attempts and it felt like more.
LSU had a pair of small leads. Khayla Pointer started the game off with a three on the opening possession to give LSU a 3-0 lead and then the Tigers scored a quick five points to grab an 8-4 lead with 5:03 remaining in the first quarter. They wouldn’t lead again, as Ohio State’s Jacy Sheldon (23 points), Taylor Mikesell (18 points), and Rebeka Mikulasikova (12 points) turned a second round game of the NCAA Tournament into their own private three-point shooting contest.
LSU trailed by as many as 24 points, its largest deficit of the season, before Pointer tried to will the Tigers back singlehandedly in the fourth quarter.
And it almost worked too, as LSU got within nine points with 1:11 to play in the fourth quarter. But unlike Saturday against Jackson State, the margin was too great to overcome and by the time LSU got within single digits there was barely enough time left on the clock for it to matter.
LSU didn’t make life easy for themselves, as the Tigers turned it over 11 times, missed 10 free throws, and as a team shot 36 percent from the floor. Ohio State’s offense was surgical, while it felt like LSU needed every little thing to go right just to come away with points.
Khayla Pointer led all players with 32 points, three off of her career-high set against Florida (also in a losing effort) but needed 30 shots and 13 free throw attempts to get there. Jailin Cherry needed 14 shots to score 12 and Ryann Payne needed eight to score eight. The LSU frontcourt, which on paper should have been an advantage, gave the Tigers virtually nothing as Faustine Aifuwa, Autumn Newby, Awa Trasi, and Hannah Gusters combined to shoot 4-11.
And so Kim Mulkey’s first season in Baton Rouge comes to an unceremonious end on her home floor. Sure tonight’s disappointing, but this team one nine games a year ago. Now they’re finishing second in the SEC, climbing as high as No. 8 in America and won the most regular season games since Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles were suiting up. While the men’s tournament loss to Iowa State felt like the end of one era, tonight feels like only the beginning for the women’s program under Kim Mulkey.