Lady Tigers advance in the preseason WNIT

Bill Martin
LSU's DaShawn Harden. Photo by

The 15th-ranked LSU women's basketball team rode a dominant first half and wore down Saint Joseph's with its depth to advance to the semifinals of the preseason WNIT by a score of 80-64 on Sunday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The Lady Tigers (2-0) will now face either No. 5 Louisville or Quinnipiac on Thursday at a time and location to be announced. Should Louisville win at home Monday night, LSU will travel to Louisville for a 6 p.m. CT Thursday tipoff. Should Quinnipiac pull the upset, the Lady Tigers would host the WNIT semifinal at 7 p.m. CT Thursday.

For the second straight game, junior guard DaShawn Harden led LSU with 19 points, connecting for three from three-point land and recording five steals in 36 minutes.

"Her ability to score the basketball is unbelievable because she's so versatile," said LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell. "Tonight she fell in love with the three-ball, but she made some key baskets, especially when they were making runs at us."

Sophomore guard Danielle Ballard made hustle plays all over the floor, racking up 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds and seven assists. Senior forward Theresa Plaisance added 15 points and seven boards.

Despite a distinct height and depth disadvantage, Saint Joseph's (1-1) was able to keep the game interesting by burying 9-of-25 threes. Erin Shields led all scorers with 23 points and 7-of-12 from beyond the arc.

The Lady Tigers closed the first half with an 8-0 run and took a 40-25 advantage into the locker room. Freshman Jasmine Rhodes sparked the final minute, converting a three-point play after an offensive rebound.

Shields got hot from the outside with back-to-back threes as a once 51-32 LSU lead dissipated to 10 with 11:15 to play in the game. Harden pushed the lead during a 9-2 run with a three from the left corner and two free throws.

As a team, LSU drained 16-of-22 from the line and got several quality paint looks. The Lady Tigers shot 46.2 percent from the floor and tallied 16 assists.

Senior forward Shanece McKinney provided several key rebounds in the final five minutes. She accounted for LSU's last two field goals as the Lady Tigers dominated the boards 50-30.

"We talked about the fact that we needed to control the boards," said Caldwell. "They did a great job of getting back – St. Joseph's didn't get many easy looks."