1.13.19 LSU vs South Carolina

LSU junior forward Ayana Mitchell (5) shoots the ball during the lady Tigers' 76-52 loss to South Carolina, on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019 in the PMAC.

LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Fargas and the Lady Tigers start the 2019-2020 season in the win column after defeating in-state rival New Orleans 83-49 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Tuesday night. The Lady Tigers started the game on a 6-0 run and never surrendered the lead, controlling the pace of play on both sides of the floor for most of the contest.

Scoring her 12th point at the 3:40 mark of the third quarter, senior forward Ayana Mitchell became the 33rd player in program history to record 1,000 career points, finishing the game with 15 points, 13 rebounds and her 28th career double-double. Mitchell was named to the preseason All-SEC women’s basketball team and started all 29 games a season ago.

“I knew I was close,” Mitchell said on scoring 1,000 points. “It’s a blessing to be in that category with some of the greats that have been here. I give credit to my teammates. They always find me in the right spots at the right time.”

Freshman guard Tiara Young posted a game-high 19 points in her long-awaited LSU debut, while junior center Faustine Aifuwa posed a significant presence in the paint, tallying 15 points and five rebounds of her own. LSU made a living around the basket, scoring 54 points in the paint to UNO’s 16.

The Lady Tigers also dominated the battle on the glass, out-rebounding the Privateers of UNO, 55-29.

“To out-rebound your opponent, that’s one of our goals,” said Fargas. “[Rebounding] is always something that we’re going to look at on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.”

Free-throw shooting was a major point of emphasis for the coaching staff during practices this offseason after the Lady Tigers went just 61% from the line last year, but Fargas’ squad continued to struggle from the charity stripe, going 17-of-35 (48.6%) in Tuesday’s opener.

“It’s going to be a work in progress,” said Fargas on free-throw shooting. “It’s not a matter of the team not getting in the gym. We have to be more intentional and focused on making those free throws in the game. This group can make free throws. I’ve seen them do it. Now it has to convert and carry over to the game.”

There were certainly many positives to take away from the Lady Tigers’ opening win on Tuesday night, but coach Fargas knows there’s still a lot to clean up. Along with going 48.6% from the free throw line, LSU committed 19 turnovers and went just 22.2% from behind-the-arc. Despite her strong play, Aifuwa struggled at the free-throw line (1-of-4) and also had eight of LSU’s 19 turnovers.

“That’s uncharacteristic of Faustine,” said Fargas on Aifuwa, who led the team with eight turnovers. “You take her turnovers out of the equation, and our turnovers are right where they need to be. She did a lot of other good things for us.”

Next, the Tigers will host No. 12 Florida State at the Maravich Center at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Free admission will be available for military families and first responders in honor of Veterans Day.

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