Last year, seniors Jeanne Kenney, Shanece McKinney and Theresa Plaisance led the LSU women’s basketball team on both ends of the floor.
Coming into this season, the Lady Tigers are looking for ways to replace the production of these players by adapting to a style of play that fits the current roster and their leadership.
“We have to definitely rely on our speed and defense,” said sophomore guard Raigyne Moncrief. “I think we are a lot faster this year. We did lose Shanece, one of our leading blockers; Theresa Plaisance, one of our leading scorers; and Jeanne, our leader in scoring threes.”
The Lady Tigers will look entirely different defensively this season after losing the size of Plaisance and McKinney in the post. Plaisance and McKinney were the tallest players on the roster, standing at 6-feet-5-inches and 6-feet-4-inches, respectively.
Last season, the Lady Tigers relied on Plaisance and McKinney’s size in the post to close down drives in the paint. The pair accounted for more than 70 percent of LSU’s blocks in 2013.
“If [an opponent] gets past the guard, [Plaisance and McKinney] were there to defend and block shots,” Moncrief said. “This year, we definitely [have to] defend the ball and we really have to work on our defense. It has to be on point because we play against tough teams and we’ve got to know how to stop them.”
LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said the Lady Tigers are focusing on using their speed to create turnovers and apply full-court pressure to disrupt opponents’ offenses.
By applying more pressure, LSU looks to increase its steals from last year when the Lady Tigers were seventh in the Southeastern Conference with 8.3 steals per game.
Even though the look of the defense will be different, LSU’s defensive philosophy remains the same no matter how much the Lady Tigers adapt to shut down their opponent.
“[The defensive philosophy is] to get to the help line and help each other whenever possible,” said senior forward Sheila Boykin. “As long as we are in the help line, and the offensive player sees other white or purple jerseys behind [the player defending the ball], they know not to drive on her because they got all of us that will be going up against her.”
The Lady Tigers also feel the loss of Plaisance, McKinney and Kenney on the offensive end of the floor. The trio averaged 34.1 points per game out of the Lady Tigers’ 70 average points per game.
Each played a key role in the offense, and Plaisance led LSU with 15.3 points per game and was second on the team with a 34.8 percent shooting clip from behind the 3-point line.
“[Plaisance] is somebody that allowed us to extend the defense with her ability to shoot the three,” Caldwell said. “Right now I see [freshman center/forward] Alliyah [Fareo] being that player because of her ability to shoot the three.”
McKinney led LSU in field goal percentage at 58 percent and added 7.5 points per game.
Kenney led the team in assists with 3.5 per game, 3-point percentage with a 39.2 clip and total 3-pointers made with 71 in 2013.
Moncrief and sophomore guards Rina Hill and Danielle Ballard look to replace the leadership these players brought to the court.
Moncrief and Hill have embraced their roles as vocal leaders.
“It’s tough because I’m really a leader by example,” Moncrief said. “I really don’t communicate much, but now I’m forced to communicate. In order for our team to be successful, I have to be that vocal leader and coach already told me that I need to be that leader.”
You can reach Morgan Prewitt on Twitter @kmprewitt_TDR.