LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The LSU women’s basketball team looks to secure a spot in the program’s first NCAA Elite 8 appearance since the 2007-08 season as the Lady Tigers take on third-seeded and No. 4 Louisville at 1:30 p.m. CT Sunday inside the KFC Yum! Center.
The Lady Tigers (21-12) will play in their second consecutive NCAA Sweet 16 under head coach Nikki Caldwell and have secured a spot in 14 overall NCAA Sweet 16’s.
Sunday’s tip time is slated for 1:30 p.m. CT, and the game will be televised by ESPN2. The telecast also will be available at http://www.watchespn.com/ and the Watch ESPN App. The LSU Sports Radio Network will carry the game on its affiliates led by flagship station Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge and a free live audio webcast inside the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net/live. In-game updates also can be found courtesy of www.Twitter.com/LSUwbkb.
The winner of the LSU-Louisville contest will square off in Tuesday’s regional final round at the KFC Yum! Center against the winner of No. 1 seed Tennessee and No. 4 seed Maryland.
“I’m extremely proud of our team and their efforts to get us to another Sweet 16,” head coach Nikki Caldwell said. “A lot of ups and downs for this group, but they seem to have a lot of determination and perseverance in them. No coach wants to go into the season or go into postseason play with a limited roster. It is what it is, and our team – their attitude towards it has been very positive and very focused. They know we've got to play extremely smart, but we've also got to play as a unit. Your number is going to be called, and it's just a matter of going in there and answering the call. The way that they have prepared for this weekend has been very, I would say, focused. That's what you want this time of year – you want them to have a sense of focus about them.”
During the season, LSU has played the nation’s toughest strength of schedule with 27 of its 33 games against RPI Top 100 opponents. The Lady Tigers notched a 98-78 victory over Georgia Tech. The 98 points were a program NCAA Tournament single-game mark previously set by the 1983-84 squad during a 92-82 win over Missouri.
LSU put together a 20-4 finishing kick over the last five minutes and scored on its final 10 possessions to erase a seven-point deficit versus No. 7 West Virginia. The Lady Tigers overcame a short bench and registered a 76-67 victory over the Mountaineers.
Danielle Ballard has upped her marks to 23.0 points, 16.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game during LSU’s two NCAA Tournament games. The 23.0 points are tied for ninth, while the 16.0 rebounds are third on the NCAA Tournament leaderboard.
After tallying 24 points and a career-best 17 rebounds during the Georgia Tech game, Ballard was equally impressive with 22 points and 15 rebounds versus No. 7 West Virginia.
Theresa Plaisance, an All-SEC First Team honoree, is the only player to rank among the SEC’s Top 10 in those five categories again this season: points (15.5 - 10th), rebounds (7.6 - 8th), field goal percentage (43.5 - 9th), free throw percentage (73.7 - 9th) and blocks (1.4 - 9th).
Plaisance provided 14.5 points per game apiece last weekend highlighted by 21 points and 11 rebounds versus Georgia Tech before she had her run of 22 consecutive games in double figures come to a close during the West Virginia game.
DaShawn Harden has started in six of the team’s last seven games of the season. She has notched 10.1 points per game as a starter with four of her seven 10-plus point performances. Harden struck for 14.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game during LSU’s two NCAA Tournament outings. She registered 17 of LSU’s 22 bench points versus Georgia Tech before she added 12 points as a starter against West Virginia.
Shanece McKinney has been a valuable force inside the paint for the Lady Tigers. She has notched 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 blocks per game during LSU’s two NCAA Tournament games. McKinney is 11-of-13 from the floor and her 84.6 field goal percentage is third-highest through two games of the NCAA Touranment. LSU has won all 11 games this season when McKinney collects double figures.
On the defensive end, McKinney has equally impressive with 11 blocks over her last two games. Her 5.5 per game average is second among all players in the NCAA Tournament rankings. The Alabama native secured a career-best six blocks against Georgia Tech followed by five rejections during the West Virginia game.
Jasmine Rhodes and Rina Hill, two freshmen guards who averaged a combined 5.7 points per game, came up clutch for the Lady Tigers in the second half of the West Virginia game. Rhodes tacked on seven of her 11 points and gathered five of her six rebounds, while Hill notched all eight of her points and two assists. Rhodes will earn the start in place of Kenney for the Louisville game.
Louisville (32-4) earned a second place finish in the first year of the American Athletic Conference. Three of the team’s four losses have come against top-seeded and No. 1 Connecticut. The Cardinals are the defending national runner-up, have collected two NCAA Final Four runs in the last five seasons and have won 17 of its 22 NCAA Tournament games under head coach Jeff Walz.
Shoni Schimmel, a WBCA All-Region and ESPNW All-American Second-Team pick, has pumped in 17.0 points and 3.7 assists per game. She has reached double figures in 33 of 36 games which included a 26-point performance last time out in Louisville’s win over Iowa during the NCAA Second Round. On the interior, Sara Hammond and Asia Taylor have come away with 10.8 points per game apiece. Taylor racked up 23 points and 10 rebounds to spark the Cardinals to an 88-67 win over LSU earlier this season.
“I think the one thing about playing a team like Louisville, they're an exciting team to watch,” Caldwell said. “Their transition game is very explosive. (Shoni) Schimmel is a fun player to watch. I've followed her career for a long time, and they do a very nice job of distributing the basketball and having a balanced attack. Yes, we are familiar with playing them earlier on in the season. This team has grown from that experience, and we've gone on to play other difficult teams, as well. We're just going to make sure that we come in prepared and stick to our game plan.”
For all of the latest news and information on Lady Tiger basketball, visit www.lsusports.net/womensbasketball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsuwbkb along with @lsuwbkb and @NikkiCaldwell on Twitter.