BATON ROUGE, La. — Mardi Gras ended last Tuesday for everyone but LSU head coach Van Chancellor, who emerged from the locker room wearing plastic beads around his neck before a rivalry game against No. 24 Georgia.
"They were totally shocked I came out in beads," Chancellor said of his players’ reaction. "I just wore them to loosen us up. ... To me, a game ought to be fun."
Certainly, 11-game winning streaks are fun, and that’s exactly what LSU has after Sylvia Fowles’ 19 points and 15 rebounds lifted the eighth-ranked Lady Tigers to a 63-57 victory on Sunday.
Quianna Chaney and RaShonta LeBlanc each scored 14 points for LSU (20-3, 9-0 Southeastern Conference). Chaney’s four 3-pointers and LeBlanc’s combination of mid-range jumpers and drives to the hoop helped LSU overcome an otherwise valiant defensive effort by Georgia, which held the Lady Tigers below their average of 71.4 points per game.
"I see Chaney coming down, shooting it early from 3, shooting in transition from 3, and quite frankly, I think it makes for a more difficult team to defend," Georgia coach Andy Landers said.
Georgia’s exertion on defense left them too worn out to move the ball effectively against a senior-laden LSU squad that communicates well and plays strong defense as well. The Lady Bulldogs shot 32 percent and turned the ball over 16 times.
"We came in with a definite plan. We knew what the dangers were," Landers said. "We needed to score a couple more baskets."
LSU never trailed after taking a 6-5 lead and built double-digit margins several times.
Tasha Humphrey, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds, helped Georgia counter with a few runs to keep the game competitive.
Angel Robinson had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Georgia (17-7, 4-5), which has lost four of five games and now is in danger of sliding out of the Top 25. Ashley Houts added 13 points.
LSU shot 42 percent and led 45-28 when Chaney hit her final 3-pointer with just under 16 minutes to go.
Angela Puleo’s 3-pointer then ignited a 13-2 Georgia run that included two more 3s by Humphrey, and when Puleo later hit her second 3 of the half, LSU’s lead was cut to 51-46 with 9:23 remaining.
LSU led 56-52 with 5:45 remaining, then LeBlanc hit a jumper from the top of the key, Erica White converted a driving layup and LeBlanc followed with another jumper. That gave LSU a 62-52 lead with 3:44 to go and Georgia would not threaten again as Ashley Thomas shut down Humphrey the rest of the way.
"Ashley is phenomenal," Fowles said. "She’s one of those players you can put in there and tell her to do the dirty work and she has no problem with it."
Both teams wore special uniforms — LSU in white with pink trim and Georgia in pink with white trim — to promote breast cancer awareness. Much of the crowd in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center wore pink as well.
The change of scenery did not appear to suit either team early on. Both shot around 20 percent through the first five minutes.
LeBlanc ignited the first surge in the opening half for LSU, hitting two jumpers and a driving layup as she was fouled during a 13-0 run that gave the Lady Tigers a 17-5 lead.
Humphrey responded with a jump hook as she was fouled, two free throws and a 3-pointer, and Georgia pulled to 22-17 on Marshall’s jumper.
Meanwhile, Humphrey and Robinson collaborated to bottle up Fowles inside. That worked only until Chaney started hitting from long range. She made three straight 3-pointers as LSU took 31-19 lead, then Fowles hit a pair of inside shots to give the Lady Tigers a 37-24 halftime lead.
After the game, Landers smiled at the thought of playing LSU next season, when seven Lady Tigers seniors have departed.
The 64-year-old Chancellor, a longtime friend of Landers, had little interest in entertaining that thought.
"Next year? Well, I’m going to tell you something. I may not live until next year. I’m going to enjoy today," he said. "My wife asked me, was I enjoying coaching this team? It’s hard not to. They’ve won 20 games."
And one never knows when the fun might end. LSU visits No. 2 Tennessee on Thursday.