How LSU women's basketball adjusted after starter Autumn Newby exited with an injury
LSU paid a price in its 87-85 overtime home win over Missouri on Thursday night.
LSU starting forward Autumn Newby had to be helped from the floor in the third quarter due to an apparent lower leg injury.
Newby had 12 rebounds and four points in 19 minutes at the time she was injured.
Prior to Thursday, the graduate transfer from Vanderbilt was averaging 7.5 rebounds and 5.8 points while starting 14-of-17 games in her first season at LSU. She did not play at Vanderbilt last season, but averaged 5.9 rebounds and 4.6 points while starting 27-of-30 games for Vandy as a junior in 2019-20.
Coincidentally, No. 14 LSU (16-2, 4-1 SEC) faces Vanderbilt (10-7, 1-2) on Sunday (noon, SEC Network).
Newby underwent an MRI exam Friday, according to LSU coach Kim Mulkey, but results were not immediately made known.
"It didn't look good coming off the floor, but actually … I spoke to our trainer," Mulkey said Friday, "and she said her evaluation from what they did … looked promising, right, looked good. But she won't know anything until you do an MRI.
"Let's hope for the best, and we'll prepare as if we don't have her."
LSU led 48-38 when Newby left with 8:33 left in the third quarter. Just more than three minutes later the LSU lead was down to two points, and with just more than two minutes left in the fourth quarter Missouri was up 76-75.
"A big turning point: We got rattled when Autumn went down with the injury," Mulkey said. "And that's when we just had to get our composure."
At that point, with freshman Ajae Petty already on crutches with a stress reaction, LSU was down to three available post players.
When the 6-foot-2 Newby first got hurt, Mulkey replaced her with 6-1 forward Awa Trasi. But she quickly turned to 6-5 center Faustine Aifuwa, who played a lot late despite having four fouls.
"My decision was do I was do with Awa (Trasi) and Hannah (Gusters), who's basically a freshman," Mulkey said, "and I chose to go big, knowing that were staying in that 3-2 (zone) and they were going to help those guys as wide as they can."
It worked, but only with LSU playing a defense to which it was quite unaccustomed.
"Y'all think I ever taught (a 3-2 zone?" said Mulkey, who coached the last 21 seasons at Baylor. "It's the same damn thing I did in 2005 when we played LSU (and) we couldn't guard them.
"I have to give credit to these kids, because they just figured it out."
That did the trick defensively.
Offensively, Aifuwa finished with 15 points and played 30 minutes without fouling out. Guards Khayla Pointer and Jailin Cherry both played all 45 minutes, scoring 21 and 20 points, respectively, and Pointer hit the game-winner with a five seconds left before Alexis Morris blocked a shot on the other end.
But first LSU had to get over Newby exiting early. It wasn't easy.
"Honestly, we had to do what we had to do," Cherry said. "We're down a man, so everybody has to step up. Coach wanted us to run the 3-2, and we've run zone before, so the principles were just ... guarding an area.
"Autumn went down, it hurt us. But we shook back."