BATON ROUGE - In her first crack at leading LSU (6-1) against a ranked opponent, Head Coach Kim Mulkey led the Tigers to a 69-60 victory over No. 14 Iowa State (7-1) Thursday evening in front of an energetic crowd in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
"We beat a very good team," said Coach Mulkey who is now 31-6 over Bill Fennelly coached Iowa State teams. "I can't tell you how much respect I have for Bill Fennelly. We beat a very young, but experienced team and great crowd. Students were lined up, circled around at the top here. This is another one of those little milestones that help us rebuild a program."
LSU earned its first non-conference home win over a ranked opponent since defeating No. 7 West Virginia the 2nd round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Alexis Morris scored a career-high 25 and shot 5-of-7 from beyond the arc and Khayla Pointer added 20 points of her own. The dynamic guard duo fed off of each other's play as they were dishing out multiple assists to each other. Pointer led the offense with seven assists and finished the night with no turnovers. She also led the Tigers with six rebounds. The LSU offense only committed seven total turnovers and forced 16 turnovers.
Ryann Payne, who played extended minutes due to an injury to Jailin Cherry, put up a solid nine points, three rebounds and three assists. Shel also tied her career-high with five steals. After getting hurt in the second quarter, Cherry did not return, but Coach Mulkey said after the game she could have played if they needed her and she did not expect Cherry to miss extended time.
The Tigers were stout defensively. They forced 16 turnovers and limited Iowa State to nine three-pointers. The Cyclone's entered Thursday's nationally televised game on ESPN2 leading the country with 12.4 made threes per game. Defending Cheryl Miller Player of the Year Ashley Joens led Iowa State with 24 points and her sister Aubrey Jones had a game-high 12 rebounds.
"It started on the defensive end of the floor," Coach Mulkey said. "I thought we did everything we asked them to do on the perimeter. We switched on ball screens, we switched on hand-offs. I thought my coaches were great with their suggestions."
For all but 58 seconds, LSU played the game with the lead over the fourteenth-ranked Cyclones. The Tigers never trailed in the second half.
LSU does not have another game scheduled for 10 days with finals week next week and will return to action on December 12 at home against Texas Southern. That will start a stretch of three home games in six days.
The Tigers began the contest with an opening tipoff win and a quick jump shot from Morris, who was just getting started in the quarter. After a quick response from the Cyclones, LSU stayed patient on their second offensive possession that resulted in Morris finding Pointer for a deep trey ball. LSU started fast and used solid defense to take a 12-8 lead into the first TV timeout. Hannah Gusters, who finished with 7, scored her first points out of the timeout on a layup off a Pointer pass.. Pointer converted an and-one play the next possession to put the Tigers up, 17-10. The Tigers started hot, shooting 64-percent from the field and going 3-for-3 from deep in the first quarter. Morris finished the quarter with 12 points with LSU leading, 24-20.
Over the course of the first five minutes of the second quarter, Iowa State climbed back to briefly take a one-point lead. Faustine Aifuwa quickly hit a pair of free throws and the Tigers never looked back. The Tigers led by two with 30 seconds left in the half. Pointer hit a jumper in the paint off a turnover and then Ryann ratcheted up the defensive pressure, forced a turnover and hit a layup as time expired to go into the locker room with a 38-32 lead.
The Tigers knew the Cyclones would not go silently. Iowa State made runs in the second half, but every time it happened, LSU responded and refused the relinquish the lead. It was a two-point game with 5:25 left in the third and Pointer found Payne for a three to extend the lead to five. The Cyclones scored on the ensuing position, but then it was Pointer hitting a three. From there, the Tigers extended their lead to as many as 12 points and led by eight at the end of the quarter.
Iowa State scored the first five of the fourth to, once again, make it a one-possession game and Gusters scored in the post to hold onto the winning edge. With 4:55 left, Iowa State made it a six-point game, but the Cyclones would not score again. LSU slammed the door on Iowa State's perfect record, making free-throws, rebounding tenaciously and forcing turnovers to secure the first win over a ranked opponent of the Coach Mulkey era.