Pointer scores 23, No. 8 LSU women top Alabama 58-50
By BRETT MARTEL
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) Khayla Pointer laughed off the miserable shooting that defined her previous performance and returned to her usual form in time to help LSU emerge unscathed from its first game as a top-10 team since 2009.
Pointer had 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and No. 8 LSU clinched at least a share of second place in the Southeastern Conference with a 58-50 victory over Alabama on Thursday night.
"How I get through stuff is I just make jokes about myself," said Pointer, who after making just one of 17 shots in the Tigers' victory over Florida last weekend told her mother, "I was just out there building my dream house."
Against Alabama, she made more shots than she bricked, as it were, hitting 10 of 19.
"It's a new game for me, a new day," Pointer said. "Even though I can joke about the last game, I know I can lock in the next day and have a completely different game."
Faustine Aifuwa scored 12 points for the Tigers (24-4, 12-3 SEC), who led for all but the opening 1:19 and by as many as 14 points en route to their seventh straight victory.
LSU can take sole possession of second place with a victory in its regular-season finale at No. 16 Tennessee on Sunday. No. 1 South Carolina won the SEC title on Thursday night when it beat Texas A&M.
LSU coach Kim Mulkey, in her first season back in her native state following her illustrious two-decade stint with Baylor, praised her players for their dramatic one-year improvement.
"Do you realize this team won nine games last year and they just finished (one spot) behind the No. 1 team in the country in the SEC?" Mulkey said. "What a year it's been."
LSU starting guard Alexis Morris played just one minute before leaving with a knee injury. She was hurt on the Tigers' defensive end in a collision with Alabama's Brittany Davis as the Crimson Tide guard drove the lane.
Morris needed help leaving the court and was on crutches after the game. Mulkey said a doctor's preliminary prognosis was a sprained knee but that an MRI was likely needed to confirm that.
"Some good news, really," Mulkey said. "Let's just hope for the best."
Davis had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Alabama (14-12, 5-10), which came in having won two straight, including a victory over Tennessee. Megan Abrams added 16 points and Hannah Barber had 11 for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama got as close as three points twice in the fourth quarter. But when Abrams' 3 cut it to 46-43, Poynter answered with a layup. After Davis' layup made it 48-45, LSU's Ryann Payne, filling in for Morris, made a jumper to ignite an 8-0 run that Aifuwa capped with a short jumper to make it 56-45 with 3:27 left.
"Khayla just got the ball in her hands and made some plays. We couldn't keep her in front," Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. "She did what a fifth-year player does."
Alabama didn't get within eight after that.
Alabama: Showed why it can be a tough out in the upcoming SEC tournament by methodically getting back in the game in front of a loud, hostile crowd on senior night. But the Crimson Tide were done in by 34% shooting (18 of 53) and 18 turnovers that led to 14 LSU points.
"We missed a lot of shots in the paint," Curry said. "We're in the SEC and we've got to make layups."
LSU: Shot 43.9% (25 of 57) and committed relative few turnovers with 10, which helped the Tigers hold on against an Alabama squad that refused to capitulate.
The victory over unranked Alabama won't likely push LSU up the rankings, but the Tigers shouldn't fall, either.
Alabama: Hosts Vanderbilt on Sunday.
LSU: At No. 16 Tennessee on Sunday.
More AP women's college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
Updated February 24, 2022