There was little reason to believe otherwise after watching film of LSU’s previous 10 games, eight of which the Lady Tigers lost.
Instead, LSU was a team transformed, leading wire-to-wire and beating the Yellow Jackets at their own up-tempo game, 98-78 on Sunday.
“That was a totally different team that I saw today than the last 10 games on film,” Joseph said of LSU. “They had players making shots that I didn’t see them making” previously.
Sydney Wallace and Tyaunna Marshall each scored 20 for 10th-seeded Georgia Tech (20-12), but 6-foot-5 Nariah Taylor, who had 11 points, was limited by foul trouble, and LSU outrebounded Tech 57-30.
Marshall, a senior who ended her career as Tech’s all-time scorer, lamented that much of her scoring came too late to make a difference.
Tech made one of its first eight shots and committed two turnovers while falling behind 10-2 in the opening minutes, and never managed to tie the game up again.
“When shots aren’t falling I try to do more than just play offense. I like to play defense and try to rebound, too,” said Marshall, who has 2,129 career points. “But I wish I could have been more of a threat for my team in the opening minutes.”
Tech had trouble containing 5-foot-9
LSU point guard Danielle Ballard, who scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.
Theresa Plaisance had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and DaShawn Harden 17 for the Lady Tigers (20-12), who picked an opportune time to set a school record for most points in a tournament game and reach their highest point total of the season.
Seeded seventh in the Louisville region, the Lady Tigers had the benefit of opening a third straight NCAA tournament on their home court, where they are now 17-3 all-time in tournament games. LSU led by as much as 20 in the second half en route to winning its 16th straight first-round game, dating back to 1997. The Lady Tigers also improved to 9-0 all-time in first-round games played on their home court.
LSU’s performance stood in stark contrast to its previous 10 games, eight of which it lost.
“This isn’t the same LSU team you saw two weeks ago,” Plaisance said. “We’ve completely transformed ourselves.”
Shanece McKiney scored 14 points for LSU and Jeanne Kenney had 11 points.
Kaela Davis had 16 points for Georgia Tech, which came in having scored 90 or more in seven games this season, while LSU had not previously surpassed 87.
But Ballard and LSU ran the floor relentlessly and shot 50 percent (35 of 70).
“They kept getting exhausted and we just kept trying to continue doing what’s best for us, and that was to push down on offense and keep getting them tired,” Ballard said. “We were running each and every day in practice, so we were in better shape than they were. So I felt like we had the upper hand.”
LSU broke the game open in the second half with a 17-5 run that opened with Harden’s 3. Plaisance had eight points during the surge, including an alley-oop layup on a no-look, one-handed lob from Kenney.
Harden capped the run on a breakaway layup after she stole the ball from Aaliyah Whiteside, making it 83-63 with 7:40 left.
Tech never got closer than 14 after that.