Kim Mulkey knows her new LSU women’s basketball team is a work in progress on the defensive end. But a week into the season, it wasn’t for a lack of effort or aggression, she said Tuesday, like it was in its season opener against Colorado.
Those concerns were mostly gone. Instead, she thought, all No. 7 LSU (5-1) needed was some more time — to learn the system, to hone its fundamentals and to grow into a cohesive defensive unit.
In its Monday night win, LSU was missing Angel Reese for the second straight game. So, it had to face Texas Southern without her length on the interior and her penchant for attacking in transition.
But even in her absence, the Tigers played their best defensive game of the new season. They nabbed 22 steals, recorded eight blocks and forced Texas Southern (1-3) into 35 turnovers, using those chances to attack in transition. By scoring 26 more fast-break points, LSU came away with a 106-47 win.
LSU separated itself at the end of the first quarter with a 9-2 run. First, after a Texas Southern turnover, LSU swung the ball around the perimeter and found a wide-open Hailey Van Lith in the corner, where she buried a 3-pointer.
Then, Van Lith came away with a steal and took it to the other end herself, finishing a layup through contact, slapping the stanchion in excitement and completing a three-point play. After that, Flau’jae Johnson drove the lane and muscled through contact to score her own three-point play and give LSU a 13-point lead.
For the second straight game, Johnson was LSU’s most active defender and its most efficient scorer. She contributed five steals and eight rebounds to pair with her 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
Aneesah Morrow, who started in place of Reese, struggled to score in the first quarter. But that didn’t stop her from leaving a mark on the defensive end, where she recorded a team-high seven steals. After missing six of her first seven shot attempts, Morrow connected on seven of her next 12 shots to finish with 17 points.
Her interior scoring was a nice complement to the work Mikaylah Williams did from beyond the 3-point arc. The freshman from Bossier City continued her blistering start to the season by nailing 4 of 7 3-point attempts. She finished her night with 14 points.
Van Lith, who spent a large chunk of the game manning the off-guard spot, chipped in 16 points and five assists on 6-of-13 shooting. Off the bench, freshman center Aalyah Del Rosario was active enough around the rim to make the most of her 23 minutes, scoring 14 points and grabbing five rebounds.
Texas Southern’s 47 points were the fewest LSU has allowed all season. The Tigers from Houston attempted only 15 layups, scored only six fast-break points and shot only 33.3% from the field.
Next, LSU will take a trip down to the Cayman Islands to face Niagara on Friday and Virginia on Saturday. Then, it’ll return home for its Nov. 30 marquee matchup against No. 9 Virginia Tech, a rematch of last season’s semifinal game.