No. 15 LSU women beat Rutgers 69-65
NEW YORK — Down two guards because of suspension, LSU freshman Raigyne Moncrief stepped up.
She scored a season-high 27 points as well as getting seven steals and seven rebounds to lead the No. 15 Lady Tigers to a 69-65 win over Rutgers on Friday in the Women's Invitational at Barclays Center.
"Rai has done a lot for this team in a short period of time," LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. "I like her level of intensity and how she plays like it's her last game. That's how she practices and that's how she performed.
LSU (5-1) was missing DaShawn Harden and Danielle Ballard, who were suspended for a game after being ejected for fighting in a contest against Louisiana Tech last week. The pair were tossed after a video review by officials.
Even without the two, the Lady Tigers were too much for the Scarlet Knights (4-2) because of Moncrief, who made 15 of her 20 free throws, including the one that sealed the win with 2.1 seconds left.
It was the second most free throws made in school history behind Pokey Chatman's 18.
Caldwell knew she would be in for a tight game that would be a defensive battle against Rutgers and coach C. Vivian Stringer. The two teams combined for 51 turnovers and LSU only shot 35 percent from the field. Still with the game on the line the Lady Tigers were able to make plays down the stretch.
"We talked about how we've been in this situation in practice," Caldwell said. "I told them guys you've already won this before. We had a tremendous amount of focus in the last four minutes."
LSU led by four at the half and increased the advantage to 48-41 before Rutgers rallied to within 50-49. That's as close the Scarlet Knights could get. The Lady Tigers bumped the lead back up to eight before the Scarlet Knights rallied to 68-65 with 21 seconds left. After Moncrief missed two free throws, Betnijah Laney had a chance to tie it but her 3-pointer with 5.5 seconds left was short.
Moncrief then hit a free throw to clinch the victory.
The Lady Tigers will face Michigan on Saturday. The Wolverines beat Texas Tech 82-71 in the first game of the doubleheader.
Trailing 20-19 late in the first half, Moncrief scored six straight points, including going end-to-end on two consecutive layups. The Lady Tigers led 29-25 at the half as neither team really could get going offensively. They combined to shoot 17 for 61 from the field in the first 20 minutes.
Rutgers got better in the second half hitting 59 percent of its shots, but was done in by 29 turnovers.
Laney returned to the Rutgers lineup after missing the last two games with a right ankle sprain. She had 11 points and seven rebounds, but eight turnovers.
Kahleah Copper scored 16 points and Briyona Canty added 13 to lead Rutgers.
"It was too little too late," Stringer said. "At the end of the day we were mentally not there because we were excited, nervous, somewhat intimidated. We were excited playing the No. 15 team. Real Scarlet Knights don't get excited about that."
This was the first real test for Stringer's young Scarlet Knights, which won four of their first five games with the lone slipup coming against UMass. In the past the Hall of Fame coach would put her team through a rigorous non-conference schedule facing numerous Top 25 teams. With no seniors on this year's squad, Stringer will only play Top 25 members LSU and Georgia before beginning conference play.
"We threw them some cupcakes at the beginning of the season as this is not the same Scarlet Knight team that has the same level of confidence. We're young," Stringer said.