Already sporting an impressive AP rank of fifth, the South Carolina women's basketball team made a strong case for a bump up by convincingly defeating 19th-ranked LSU this afternoon in Baton Rouge 73-57. The victory was Carolina's first at LSU since 1994. The game was nationally televised on ESPN2.
Aleighsa Welch and Tiffany Mitchell were again the stars for Carolina. Both scored 19, while Welch added six boards and two blocks, Mitchell seven boards and seven assists. Alaina Coates also played well off the bench with 13 points and eight boards in only 17 minutes of play. While Elem Ibiam has been effective on the season as the starting center, Coates may be pushing to oust her more experienced teammate.
While Carolina held the lead throughout the second half, this was a close game well into the second period, with LSU not letting Carolina pull away until very late. The Tigers led by three with only 4:13 to go in the first half after Lady Tigers guard Theresa Plaisance knocked down a three to break a tie. Carolina made a strong run to take a 32-24 lead to the half, though. LSU fought hard in the second half, but beginning around the 10 minute mark, Carolina began to control the game. The Lady Gamecocks iced the contest by shooting well from the free throw line in the final minutes.
Speaking of free throws, the most striking statistic on the game is that Carolina went 21-28 from the line, while LSU went only 2-4. While USC's high attempts number reflects in part the many late trips it made to the line, holding LSU to only four attempts is impressive and yet another testament to what an impressive, well-coached team this Carolina squad is defensively.
With number three Duke having lost on Monday to UNC, Carolina stands a good chance of moving into the top four when updated rankings come out tomorrow. The Lady Gamecocks have a tough slate to finish out the season, with all four remaining opponents having winning records and two ranked. Even as well as Carolina is playing, its going to have a tough time finishing this schedule without suffering another loss. The road trip to Tennessee looks particularly daunting. If Carolina does polish all four teams off, or even if it loses one and then wins the SEC Tournament, it should have an excellent chance to earn a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament.