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In many ways, LSU is the most entertaining conference opponent on the schedule. Georgia has Landers, (whom we will constantly tease until he, you know, wins), Vanderbilt has ... Vanderbilt, Kentucky has a former UT assistant, and South Carolina has quickly become the next clear rival in the conference, but LSU has always been a great match for Tennessee, and having Caldwell in the Bayou makes it all the more interesting. They pulled off the conference opening upset in Knoxville 80-77 with a dominant second half (and a very nearly epic comeback by a UT team that clicked for maybe 3 minutes all game long), but have had their fair share of struggles and are now riding a 4 game losing streak (and 5 out of 6, which is another way of saying 5 out of 7 when you think about it).
Looking at the recent losses, however, the only decisive loss was 73-57 against South Carolina, which we can't begrudge until we've had our shot at the Lady Spurriers. The other losses - Kentucky, TAMU, Georgia, and Arkansas - were all against good clubs and with margins well within foul-at-the-end territory. They have had some injuries of their own
Besides, LSU allowed home-and-home jerseys in their game against Arkansas - a move which should be fully endorsed for every game everywhere.
- Jack of all trades. If you look at their profile, there really isn't a whole lot that stands out. They strive for a very balanced gamed at cost of having that one dominant piece of their game to lean on. Overall, they are a defense-first team, which should surprise nobody who knows anything about Caldwell. (Also, WBBState is fantastic for women's stats.)
- They may be better on the road. Oddly, their shooting percentages drop off by about 5% on their own floor, despite having had a much tougher schedule on the road. I have no explanation for this.
- All the turnovers. Teams that played LSU have turned the ball over 25% of their possessions this year, comfortably above the national average of about 21%. This is somewhat worrisome for Tennessee heading into the game.
- Know the tendencies. Plaisance is a scorer, but not a distributor (A/TO of 0.3 in conference). Efficiency/possession drops off sharply after Plaisance (0.259) and Jeanne Kenney (0.233), so covering those two is kinda important. Also, Kenney is hitting 91% of her free throws, so you know, don't foul her.
- Through the lens of the schedule. Their stats have to be kept in context of the #1 ranked strength of schedule in the country (Tennessee's is #9). For context, Baylor's is #61, which puts their schedule at a virtual tie with Dayton, despite being forced to play better competition in conference.
Keys for Tennessee:
- Watch the fouls. LSU is a good free throw shooting team. Also, unless Massengale is back and magically in game form, Tennessee is still razor thin at guard and drops off significantly in the interior when Harrison has to munch popcorn on the bench.
- Again, turnovers. So Tennessee's big turnover problem is their passing in halfcourt, which fortunately doesn't give up many fast breaks, but does derail the offense from time to time. LSU will be tough to make entry passes against, but Tennessee will have to find the line between making a tough pass and forcing one, and then stay on the happy side of that line. In fact, in the first matchup, the box score was either level or tilted in Tennessee favor except for turnovers. So, you know, don't do that.
- Rebound harder. In the first game, Tennessee outrebounded LSU 47 - 33. That will be on LSU's white board for the game, so Tennessee will absolutely have to work the glass and box out effectively. LSU doesn't give up height to Tennessee (Plaisance is 6'-5"), so this will be a matter of will.
- Offensive composure. Part of the scoring issues against Missouri happened because Simmons started too hot from the field. Four of the first five made field goals were from Simmons, which encouraged her to take a lot of wing threes (bad idea) and long wing twos (even worse idea) throughout the game. It's one thing if the shot clock is running down, but those aren't the shots to take with 22 seconds left to shoot. While we're on shooting: for some reason, the posts have all been struggling with close-in lay in shots. It's highly unlikely that there's something systemic here, but the team is due to have a big light up the board from in close (especially Graves, who has had the worst streak of the bunch). If they get rolling, LSU will be in trouble.
Prediction: 73 - 65 Tennessee. LSU doesn't play in high scoring games, and Tennessee's been a bit up and down on offense. But Tennessee has improved more than LSU has since their first game.
Lisa Mattingly watch. HIDE YO WIFE HIDE YO AWAY TEAMS. Mattingly was in Houston on Wednesday for the North Texas / Rice tilt. Our game is close by in Baton Rouge, making UT the visiting team. We're doomed. Also note that I wrote this entire writeup, including the prediction, before I found this out, so you may freely disregard everything I wrote (except for the free run on Baylor) and assume a Mattingly Win for LSU.