Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

The game was in LSU’s control, but it slipped away.

Thursday night’s matchup between LSU and South Carolina was one of those games where it’s unfortunate one team has to lose. Both teams played like they could win the game. In this case, however, LSU was on the losing end.

LSU started out hot, ending the first quarter with a six-point lead. It went into halftime with a five-point lead, and the Tigers led at the end of the third quarter.  It was a clear example of LSU’s lead slowly slipping away as its lead decreased after every quarter. 

But the question LSU fans may have is, how could this have happened?

Here are three factors that contributed to LSU’s demise:

Foul trouble

LSU’s lead didn’t slip away as a result of this, but Angel Reese fouling out with four minutes left in the game was too much time LSU had without her.

“When you don’t have Angel Reese on the floor, it takes you out of your rhythm,” Mulkey said. “It takes you out of your confidence.”

Not to mention, it gave South Carolina’s 6-foot-7 center, Kamilla Cardoso, a window to produce when it mattered most. 

While Cardoso didn’t put any points on the board with Reese out of the game in the final four minutes, she grabbed two important rebounds and had two assists. She totaled eight rebounds in the game along with 11 points. 

As a team, LSU had 15 personal fouls compared to South Carolina’s 11. Being that LSU played seven players as opposed to South Carolina’s 10, the Tigers don’t have the depth to afford having more fouls than the Gamecocks. 

Not to mention, LSU’s fouls in the fourth quarter tied the game twice; South Carolina tied the game at 61 from the foul line with six-and-a-half minutes left in the game, and then at 67 when Reese fouled out of the game with four minutes left. 

These were points and momentum swings LSU just couldn’t afford to give up.

Of LSU’s seven players that got in the game on Thursday, five of them had multiple fouls, including Reese. Aneesah Morrow had three fouls and Flau’jae Johnson, Hailey Van Lith and Aalyah Del Rosario each had two fouls.

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Timely three-point shooting

South Carolina only shot 35% from behind the 3-point line, but its shots couldn’t have been more timely. 

Bree Hall knocked down two 3-pointers under three minutes left in the game, both of which gave South Carolina a three-point lead. The second gave the Gamecocks the lead for good with just over a minute left to play.

The Gamecocks are fond of shooting the three ball. As a team, they shoot 43.5% from behind the arc. This late in the game, LSU couldn’t afford to give them the shots they thrive most on, let alone at the times they’ll benefit most from.

Earlier in the fourth quarter, Te-Hina Paopao knocked down a 3-pointer, which brought South Carolina within one score of LSU. 

MiLaysia Fulwiley knocked down two 3-pointers, one of which came right before the halftime buzzer. The Gamecocks having this momentum going into halftime could have sparked a comeback, and while it was a slow comeback, it gave them a way in.

Lack of depth

Lack of depth has been one of LSU’s prime weaknesses all season, especially in SEC play. 

But to both keep themselves out of foul trouble, and be able to defend the perimeter, LSU needed more options to give them room to make mistakes. 

Del Rosario gave LSU valuable minutes off the bench. In a game where her 6-foot-6 height would serve well, she grabbed seven rebounds and came away with three blocks. Especially with Reese and Morrow being in the most foul trouble out of anyone on the team, her production was much needed.

Regardless, for how well LSU did in the first half, they needed more options to defend South Carolina’s outside shots to avoid fatigue. 

Johnson played all 40 minutes, and Van Lith and Mikaylah Williams each played 38. Last-Tear Poa, LSU’s go-to guard off the bench, played just three minutes. 

Nobody on South Carolina played all 40 minutes. They didn’t have to.

Against a team as dominant as South Carolina, which makes defenders run all over the court, LSU wasn’t going to be able to have the same quality defense they did at the start of the game.

READ BELOW: PHOTOS: LSU women’s basketball falls 76-70 to South Carolina in the PMAC 

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