Women's Hoops Opens Stretch Run with Georgia

by Matt Dunaway
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Women's Hoops Opens Stretch Run with Georgia

BATON ROUGE – The LSU women’s basketball team returns to action from its final SEC bye and begins a pivotal four-game stretch to close the regular season as Georgia visits the Maravich Center on Thursday evening.

Tipoff is on-tap for 7:05 p.m., and the game will carried online only by SEC Network Plus. The telecast is available on www.WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app. Lyn Rollins and Victor Howell will serve as the announcing team.

The LSU Sports Radio Network will carry the game on its flagship station Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge. The radio broadcast featuring Patrick Wright, the voice of the Lady Tigers, also will be available for Geaux Zone subscribers at www.LSUsports.net/live.

Tickets for Thursday’s game are on-sale at www.LSUtix.net starting as low as $2 for general admission with the promo code “WBKPINK”. The Maravich Center Box Office opens at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. LSU will wear special pink uniforms as part of its “Play4Kay” game. The first 1,000 fans will receive pink rally towels and pink buttons in support of breast cancer awareness.

LSU (14-10, 8-4 SEC) and Georgia (17-8, 5-7 SEC) are both receiving votes in this week’s edition of the Top 25 polls. The home team has won five straight and 13 of the last 15 regular season meetings between the two teams dating back to the 2001-02 season. The Lady Tigers, winners of four of their last five games, head into Thursday’s play in a fourth place tie with Kentucky and Texas A&M in the SEC standings.

UGA is looking to end a five-game losing streak with four of the five setbacks have coming by single digits. The Lady Bulldogs lost their top scorer, Shacobia Barbee at 11.6 points per game, to a season-ending injury at the end of January. Georgia has had a week to regroup since its 51-48 loss to Florida. Erika Ford led the way with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Tiaria Griffin has posted 11.2 points per game to pace the Lady Bulldogs.

“We have an opportunity to come back after examining our team and our play over the past month/month and a half,” head coach Nikki Caldwell said. “We are in a good position. We have a challenge ahead of us in a very good Georgia team whose trademark is their defense, and their ability to rebound and push tempo. That’s going to be some of the keys to Thursday’s game that we are going to focus in on. We’ve spent these last few days past really focusing in on getting better as a team. At this time of year, you hope to be playing some of your best basketball.”

Danielle Ballard continues to be the only player in the SEC to be ranked inside the Top 15 in four of the five major statistical categories (points-rebounds-assists-steals) during conference games. She has provided double figures in eight consecutive games and her 14.0 points per game are fifth on the SEC leaderboard. She also has registered a SEC-leading 3.5 steals per game. Ballard amassed her third double-double of the season, 16 points and a season’s best 12 rebounds, at No. 1 South Carolina.

Raigyne Moncrief has come away with double figures in seven of her last eight appearances to boost her season average to 11.3 points per game. The stretch has been highlighted by a SEC career-high 21 points against Missouri on Feb. 2 which led to her being selected as the SEC’s Player of the Week. She has collected 6.8 rebounds coupled with 2.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game.

DaShawn Harden has picked up 10.1 points and 2.2 steals per game. The 2.2 steals per game are fourth in the SEC. She has come off the bench during LSU’s last five games and is looking for her first double figures scoring effort since LSU’s double overtime win at No. 15 Mississippi State on Jan. 15.

On the interior, Sheila Boykin has worked her way to 7.2 points and a team-leading 6.9 rebounds per game. She put together her fourth double-double of the season, 12 points and a career-high tying 12 rebounds, at No. 1 South Carolina.

Akilah Bethel has made her last 11 appearances off of LSU’s bench. She has tallied 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Stephanie Amichia, Jenna Deemer and Jasmine Rhodes have been staples to LSU’s bench play throughout the season. LSU has posted a 6-1 record when Deemer reaches double figures.

Rina Hill and Anne Pedersen have upped their scoring during LSU’s last six games. Pedersen has pumped in 7.7 points, while Hill has secured 6.2 points per game. The duo has garnered four games in double figures most recently Pedersen’s 11-point effort at No. 1 South Carolina.

“I think Anne Pedersen is a player that has accepted the responsibility of being that stretch four type of player for us,” Caldwell said. “She’s the one big on our team that consistently can make that jump shot. That’s a void that we had to fill when you lose a player like (Theresa) Plaisance, you are looking for someone to come in and replace that threat. Pedersen has done just that for us. She allows us to have great spacing. You have to respect the fact that if we are running any ball screen action, which is strength of ours, she is a pick and pop type player. She’s a very hard working young lady, and she is very smart. When you have players that gamble like (Raigyne) Moncrief, (Danielle) Ballard and (DaShawn) Harden, you also have to have players that give you that security. On the back of our zone, she is very solid in her defensive efforts. I like the fact that we are trying to get Pederson more shot attempts. We’re trying to find her along the baseline, at the trail in transition and just really giving her those looks. She’s earned the right to take those shots, but more importantly she is knocking them down.”

For all of the latest news and information on Lady Tiger basketball, visit www.LSUsports.net/womensbasketball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/LSUwbkb, @lsuwbkb and @NikkiCaldwell on Twitter, @LSUwbkb and @LSUNikkiCaldwell on Instagram.

LSU Women’s Basketball Media Session
February 17, 2015

HEAD COACH NIKKI CALDWELL

Opening statement…
“We have an opportunity to come back after examining our team and our play over the past month/month and a half. We are in a good position. We have a challenge ahead of us in a very good Georgia team whose trademark is their defense, and their ability to rebound and push tempo. That’s going to be some of the keys to Thursday’s game that we are going to focus in on. We’ve spent these last few days past really focusing in on getting better as a team. At this time of year, you hope to be playing some of your best basketball.”

On the magnitude of upcoming games…
“There is a sense of urgency that you have to feel in this conference. There is a cluster of us that are right there battling to play three games or four games during the SEC Tournament. Obviously as a coach, you look at that. You talked about it within your staff, but you really want your focus for your team to be on your next opponent which is Georgia. You know that when you are playing a team like Georgia, who to me with the loss of (Shacobia) Barbee, they really have stayed competitive. They have stayed focused. I understand that side of it having lost one of our best players as well, but they are right there. They are a team that in the Arkansas game, they were right there late game in a one-possession game. That game could have gone either way. Defensively, they have held their opponents in the 50s. We have to make sure that we respect the name across their chest and not necessarily look at their conference record.”

On what to expect from an Andy Landers’ team…
“Andy is a very creative coach. He does a nice job of running play action. He’ll look for isolations, and he will look to take advantage of your weaker defenders. He’s very smart, and he’s a very competitive coach. I know that he coaches them with a lot of passion. He still has his kids believing even when adversity has hit. That’s the trademark of a great head coach.”

On Raigyne Moncrief‘s decision-making over the last couple of weeks…
“Raigyne has been an all-around player for us with her ability to not only defend and rebound, but score and distribute the basketball. I like seeing her stat line with four or five assists, three or four steals and six or seven rebounds. When she is playing on both ends of the floor, we’re a very good basketball team. (Danielle) Ballard has taken some of that pressure off of her where she doesn’t feel like she has to carry the load by herself. (DaShawn) Harden has been a factor for us as well. We have to continue to explore that combination. We have to continue to allow Moncrief to excel in the open court because that’s where she is most explosive. I like the creativity that she brings to the team. She understands shot selection which is helping with her decision-making process. But more importantly, she also understanding that there is more that she can do to help this team whether that’s getting on the offensive glass or coming up with steals.”

On her team’s NCAA resume…
“I think the thing is when you take a look at our resume, we are in the toughest conference. When you have five teams in the Top 20, that’s pretty impressive. We’ve had a tough road schedule. We’ve played at Tennessee, at South Carolina, at Mississippi State and at Texas A&M. We have our permanent opponents this year with South Carolina and Texas A&M who we’re having to play twice. That’s not an easy thing to do. The game against Georgia obviously has NCAA ramifications, but more importantly it has SEC Tournament seeding ramifications as well. We’ve got to continue to be aggressive with our game plan. We’ve got to stay true with what we feel is going to put us in the most successful situation and take the game against Georgia as if you were playing in the (NCAA) Elite Eight. It’s got to be one game at a time and one opponent at a time. That mentality of seeing your last four games of your season as an Elite Eight also puts you in that mindset when you get to the NCAA tournament where it’s one and done. We’re looking at this from not only a national level but also from within our conference.”

On what the team has learned from the bye week…
“We really talked about how we can be better at our screening – setting and using screens and our spacing. We spent the last two days on getting into the gym and working on individual skill development. Whether its guards in one gym and the posts over in the men’s practice facility, we’re really focused in on development and going back to the fundamentals of playing this game. We’ve structured our practice where one day where we did only four-on four and no five on five action. It’s about reading situations, it’s about setting your teammate up and it’s about late game just really cleaning up those areas of the game that have challenged us. Then as we move forward within the week, it’s has been about more scout-specific things. What we’re going to have to run against Georgia and what they are going to run against us, we have progressed that way. We really came back and put a lot of the focus on us and playing LSU basketball.”

On who can improve from the bench…
“I can rip through my entire bench, but I’m going to start with DaShawn Harden. I think she is someone who can give us a spark in a big way on both sides of the basketball. Not too many players can do that, she’s a player that to me is one of our more skilled guards. She’s able to shoot the three, she come from ball screens with a pull up jumper and she can get to the basket. Defensively when she is able to play in the passing lanes whether we are in our full-court pressure or half-court defense, her ability to come up with those deflections, which then leads to a steal, which then leads to a transition basket – that is the spark that we need form her. (Akilah) Bethel physically and athletically has to gives us more. She has got to be the player that is all over the glass both offensively and defensively and get those easy putbacks. I can remember when Shanece (McKinney) took on that ownership and took on that role for our team last season as being the weak side cleanup lady. We would call her that. Any shot that came off, we knew that we had Shanece on the weak side. That’s what Bethel can bring to our team. On the top of our press, I just love her defensive pressure especially when she is able to get those deflections. She was a game changer for us at Mississippi State. She was part of the reason why they turned the ball over in that late game scenario, which allowed us to win a big game on the road. Those two in particular (Harden and Bethel) based on the minutes they have received can definitely elevate our play.”

On Anne Pederson’s confidence…
“I think Anne Pedersen is a player that has accepted the responsibility of being that stretch four type of player for us. She’s the one big on our team that consistently can make that jump shot. That’s a void that we had to fill when you lose a player like (Theresa) Plaisance, you are looking for someone to come in and replace that threat. Pedersen has done just that for us. She allows us to have great spacing. You have to respect the fact that if we are running any ball screen action, which is strength of ours, she is a pick and pop type player. She’s a very hard working young lady, and she is very smart. When you have players that gamble like (Raigyne) Moncrief, (Danielle) Ballard and (DaShawn) Harden, you also have to have players that give you that security. On the back of our zone, she is very solid in her defensive efforts. I like the fact that we are trying to get Pederson more shot attempts. We’re trying to find her along the baseline, at the trail in transition and just really giving her those looks. She’s earned the right to take those shots, but more importantly she is knocking them down.”