WACO, Texas — LSU’s journey through the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship begins Saturday evening when the Lady Tigers face the California Golden Bears in the first-round matchup. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. CT at the Ferrell Center, and the game will be carried on ESPN2.
LSU is a No. 8 seed with a 20-11 overall record and an 8-8 record in the SEC, while Cal enters as the No. 9 seed with a 19-13 record on the year and a 6-12 mark in the Pac-12. The Lady Tigers are making their 25th appearance in the NCAA tournament, and the fifth under head coach Nikki Fargas. This will be the Golden Bears’ 12th appearance, as well as the fifth under their head coach Lindsay Gotlieb.
“Everybody starts over and everybody is undefeated going into the NCAA Tournament,” said Fargas. “There is just more at stake because if you lose, you go home, and talking with our team, we don’t get to do this over. The opportunity to have your name called says a lot about the body of work that we’ve done to lead up to this point. It is important to finish what we started and not have any regrets as we go into our game on Saturday.”
“We need to lay everything on the line,” added Fargas. “There’s going to be some things that go our way and there are going to be some things that are not going to go our way, and it’s going to be the team that fights through the adversity or runs that the other team may make, and having more of those good moments than bad moments.”
The winner of the LSU-Cal game will face the winner of the 5:30 p.m. matchup between host No. 1 seed Baylor (30-3; 17-1 Big 12) and No. 16 seed Texas Southern (23-9; 14-4 SWAC). The second-round game will be played on Monday at a time to be determined Saturday evening.
Lowell Galindo and Sue Bird will serve as the broadcast team for ESPN2. The game will also be available on www.WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app. The LSU Sports Radio Network will carry the game on its flagship station Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge. The radio broadcast featuring Patrick Wright, the voice of the Lady Tigers, also will be available for free at www.LSUsports.net/live.
LSU has only faced California twice in the history of the program, and the series is tied 1-1. Both meetings were on neutral courts as LSU defeated Cal, 65-56, in 1981-82 in the Tournament of Champions hosted in Portland, and most recently fell to the Bears, 73-63, in the 2013 Sweet 16 hosted in Spokane, Wash.
LSU is 43-24 in its 24 previous NCAA Tournament appearances. The Lady Tigers rank fourth in the SEC in all-time NCAA Tournament appearances behind Tennessee (36), Georgia (32) and Vanderbilt (27). In its long-time history in the post-season championship, LSU boasts five Final Four appearances as well as 14 Sweet 16 and eight Elite Eight appearances. The Lady Tigers are 16-3 all-time in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. LSU won 16-straight first-round games before snapping the streak with a loss to USF in Tampa in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. The Lady Tigers played 10 teams this season that are slated to participate in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
Guard Raigyne Moncrief, the 2017 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, leads the Lady Tigers in nearly every statistical category, including points (16.0 ppg), rebounds (5.9 rpg), steals (106) and assists (89). She has led LSU in scoring in 12 of the last 15 games and has scored 20-plus points 11 times this season, including her 25-point effort against No. 6 Mississippi State in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. Moncrief leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally with her school-record 106 steals. Moncrief has experience in two previous NCAA Tournaments (2014 and 2015).
“A lot of the success of our program this season has been because we have Moncrief on our roster,” said Fargas. “She is someone you have to game-plan for, every single game. We play her so many different positions that denying her the basketball is not that easy. She creates her offense through her defense. I don’t know too many players who have the ability to defend, and rebound and score and play one through four. She is an All-American. She is one of the best players not only in the SEC, but in the country and I hope people would recognize that.”
Guard Chloe Jackson follows Moncrief in scoring with 13.2 points per game and has registered 56 steals and 67 assists. Jackson put up a double-double of 22 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in LSU’s win over Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament. She has scored 20-plus points in six games this season and has led the Lady Tigers in scoring in eight contests.
Posts Alexis Hyder and Ayana Mitchell average 5.6 and 5.3 rebounds a game, respectively. Hyder averages 8.9 points a game and leads LSU in blocked shots with 25. Mitchell, who averages 8.1 points per contest, is LSU’s most accurate field goal shooter, converting 59 percent (86-146) of her attempts.
LSU has two other players with NCAA Tournament experience at LSU in seniors Rina Hill and Jasmine Rhodes. Hill, who has started 24 of 28 games this season, averages 5.4 points and 1.5 assists per game. Rhodes has started the last 13 games for the Lady Tigers and is a solid contributor who averages 4.1 points and 3.0 rebounds a game. Both Rhodes and Hill saw action in the 2014 and 2015 postseason tournaments.
Kristine Anigwe leads Cal with 21.2 points and 9.3 rebounds a game. The 6-4 center/forward ranks 12th nationally in scoring and is second in the Pac-12 with 66 blocked shots. She is a 58-percent shooter from the field and a 67-percent shooter from the free-throw line. Courtney Range averages 9.1 points, while Mikayla Cowling and Asha Thomas each average 8.8 points. Thomas is Cal’s biggest outside shooting threat, leading her squad in treys with 57. Cowling boasts a team-leading 155 assists and 56 steals.
“Cal is a team that has a balanced attack,” said Fargas. “You can’t just focus on their inside play. You have to be aware of their ability to score the ball from the perimeter. They are very athletic. They are a team that also plays multiple defenses and they will switch it up on you and change the tempo of the game in their favor. This is going to be a great challenge for us, but I do feel like the SEC has prepared us to play a team like Cal.”
“We have to stick to our game plan and stay on point to the things that we do well,” added Fargas. “We have to be the team that likes to turn people over. We have to be aggressive on the defensive end and making sure that we are rebounding the basketball.”
Notes & Trends
Nikki Fargas Is 52-14 In NCAA Tourney With Three Titles
LSU head coach Nikki Fargas is no stranger to the postseason. In 19 years as a player, graduate assistant, assistant coach and head coach, Fargas has reached the NCAA Tournament in 17 seasons. Fargas owns a 52-14 record in NCAA Tournament play and she is 7-6 as a head coach in the tournament. Fargas was a member of seven Final Fours and three NCAA championships as both a player and assistant coach under Pat Summitt at Tennessee.
LSU Ranks Tied For 6th Among NCAA Tourney Teams
While LSU ranks fourth in the SEC among all-time tournament appearances with 25, the Lady Tigers are tied for sixth for most appearances by teams playing in this year’s tournament. LSU is tied with Maryland and the pair follow Tennessee (36), Stanford (31), Texas (30), UConn (29) and Purdue (26).
LSU Is 16-3 All-Time in the First Round
LSU is 16-3 all-time in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Tigers won 16-straight first-round contests before snapping the streak with a 73-64 loss to USF in 2015.
First Time As a No. 8 Seed
In 25 NCAA Tournament appearances, this is LSU’s first time as a No. 8 seed. The Lady Tigers have been a No. 9 seed twice and fell both times to the No. 8 seed (1988, 1990). Overall, LSU is 2-0 when playing a No. 9 seed, and both of those games were with LSU as the No. 1 seed and facing the No. 9 in the second round (2005, 2006). The Lady Tigers advanced to the Final Four both of those years.
LSU Has Four Players With NCAA Tournament Experience
LSU has four players with NCAA Tournament experience, including seniors Rina Hill and Jasmine Rhodes, and juniors Raigyne Moncrief and Jenna Deemer. Deemer will not see action in this year’s tournament as she has been sidelined a majority of the 2016-17 season with an illness. Moncrief has started both NCAA games she has played in. She missed two games of the 2014 tournament with a knee injury.
Lone Star Tigers
Senior Alexis Hyder (Austin) and freshman Jaelyn Richard-Harris (Houston) both hail from the Lone Star State. Hyder prepped at Lyndon B. Johnson Early College High School in Austin, Texas, and played two seasons at North Texas before transferring to LSU. Richard-Harris signed with the Lady Tigers last year out of Dekaney High School.
For all of the latest news and information on Lady Tiger basketball, visit www.LSUsports.net/womensbasketball. Fans also can follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/LSUwbkb, @LSUwbkb and @LSUNikkiFargas on Twitter, @LSUwbkb and @LSUNikkiFargas on Instagram.