POSTED: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 1:40am
UPDATED: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 1:43am
WICHITA, Kansas - — Senior forward LaSondra Barrett scored 16 points and converted a clutch three-point play in the final minute as the 20th-ranked LSU women's basketball team opened up the Nikki Caldwell era with a 64-56 win over Wichita State on Monday night in Charles Koch Arena.
The Lady Tigers (1-0) committed 22 turnovers and attempted 26 fewer shots than Shockers, who benefited from an 11-of-37 effort from three-point range. The 37 attempts were the most against LSU in school history.
Wichita State dropped to 1-1 on the season after opening the year with a win over Northwestern State on Saturday.
"Give Wichita State a lot of credit," said Caldwell, who made her LSU coaching debut. "They exploited us on some of our missed rotations defensively and they continued to fight until the end. We broke down defensively, adjusted and went more to our man-to-man (defense).
"I am proud of our team hanging tough at the end and coming out with a win. I was pleased with us hitting big shots when we needed to. It's the first game on the road, but if you limit those turnovers we have more chances to score the basketball. We have to be better in that area. You have to make every possession count, especially on the road."
Sophomore Jeanne Kenney added 16 points and dished out a career-best five assists. Kenney had 12 in the second half in the first start of her career. The Baton Rouge native connected on 4-of-5 from three-point range, including two late in the second half that rallied LSU from a five-point deficit. Freshman Krystal Forthan had eight points, seven rebounds and a block in her collegiate debut.
Wichita State was led in scoring by Jessica Diamond, who finished with 16 points and was 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. LSU saw a four-point halftime lead evaporate seven minutes into the second half when Diamond drained back-to-back treys that made it 44-39 Shockers.
Kenney then scored five of LSU's next seven points, including a three from the left corner that tied it at 46 apiece with 11:07 to go. With 7:01 left in the game,
Kenney sparked a quick 6-0 spurt with another trey and she was the catalyst of a brilliant three-point play that gave the Lady Tigers the lead for good. She gathered a missed free throw, fired a pass in transition to Courtney Jones, who found Barrett for a layup and an ensuing made free throw. LSU led 60-54 and Barrett converted another three-point play with 0:57 remaining that put the game away. Barrett, a National Player of the Year candidate, scored the final four points for LSU.
Despite the turnovers, the Lady Tigers were efficient offensively, shooting 61.5 percent from the floor. The Shockers shot 30.8 percent and were out-rebounded 38-31.
LSU committed 13 turnovers in the first half and seven turnovers in the first six minutes. The Shockers capitalized and built an 8-2 lead. Theresa Plaisance then came off the bench and the Lady Tigers rallied with seven straight to take their first lead. Plaisance buried a three from the right corner and added a lay-up that made it 9-8 in favor of LSU with 13:34 remaining in the half. They took a 35-31 lead into the locker room.
LSU returns to Baton Rouge for its home opener against No. 14 Georgetown at 7 p.m. CT Wednesday in the Maravich Center. The first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a free Nikki Caldwell signed mini-basketball. At halftime, two tickets to the LSU-Arkansas football game will be given away. It will be a student priority point game for LSU students and the first 200 LSU students will receive free nachos.
Admission for LSU students is free. Adult general admission tickets cost $6 and youth general admission tickets are $3. Tickets are available online at www.LSUtix.net . On gameday, tickets go on sale at the Maravich Center ticket office at 5:30 p.m.