CINCINNATI, Ohio -- The 11th-ranked LSU women’s basketball team returns to action following Christmas break as the Lady Tigers travel to face the 13th-ranked Xavier (Ohio) Musketeers in the final non-conference game of the season at 6 p.m. CST Wednesday in Cintas Arena.
The contest can be heard live on the LSU Sports Radio Network in Baton Rouge on 107.3 FM. Live streaming audio can be accessed in the Geaux Zone on www.LSUsports.net. The game will not be televised and there will be no streaming video for the contest.
LSU (10-1) begins a three-game road stretch that includes games at South Carolina and at Arkansas to open the month of January. The Lady Tigers are seeking their first win over a ranked non-conference opponent on the road since at No. 18 Michigan State on Dec. 17, 2006.
The contest serves as one final test before opening Southeastern Conference play against the Gamecocks on Jan. 3 in Columbia in a game that will be televised by ESPNU.
“This a very difficult team to defend that we are playing,” LSU head coach Van Chancellor said. “This Xavier team is a team that I feel can be a Final Four team. They are long, very athletic and have great size and perimeter skills. For us, we have to get back to the Lady Tiger way and play tougher defense and harder. That has been our trademark. We have worked hard in the past few days to get back to that point.”
LSU is one win away from giving Chancellor his 500th career collegiate victory in now his 22nd season overall. Chancellor has won 60 games in three seasons with the Lady Tigers, and the 2007 Naismith Hall of Famer captured 439 victories in 19 seasons at Ole Miss. In the professional ranks, Chancellor guided the Houston Comets to four straight WNBA titles and he remains the league’s all-time winningest coach with 211 victories.
The Lady Tigers are coming off a decisive 72-27 win over Southeastern Louisiana prior to Christmas on Dec. 22. It marked the fifth time this season LSU had surrendered 35 points or less in a game.
LSU’s scoring defense is tops in the SEC and third in the nation as the Lady Tigers surrender only 45.6 points per game. Opponents are shooting 33.8 percent against LSU, while the Lady Tigers have shot 43.3 percent from the floor. LSU has also taken care of the basketball, ranking third in the nation in fewest turnovers committed. Junior point guard Latear Eason leads the SEC in assist/turnover ratio, dishing out 36 assists to just 14 turnovers.
Senior preseason All-American guard Allison Hightower has reached double-figures in nine straight games and 10 of LSU’s 11 games this season. Hightower ranks fifth in the SEC in scoring with 16.5 points per contest. Sophomore forward LaSondra Barrett, who registered her first double-double of the season against Southeastern, is second on the team in scoring (9.7 ppg) and first in rebounding (5.8 rpg).
Xavier (9-2) features one of the nation’s most powerful 1-2 inside tandems. Junior forward Amber Harris leads the Musketeers with 14.9 points to go along with 7.8 rebounds per game. Junior center Ta’Shia Phillips is the reigning Atlantic 10 Player of the Week and the 2008-09 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. Phillips is averaging 13.5 points and a team-high 9.9 rebounds, just shy of a double-double on the season.
“I don’t think you can stop them (Harris and Phillips),” Chancellor said. “You just have to find a way to slow them down with their size. They are two very talented players and two of the best in the country. We cannot let them have career nights on us and have to be better defensively than we were at Nebraska.”
Xavier owns double-digit wins against Middle Tennessee and Cincinnati, but the Musketeers most impressive win might have come during its current two-game winning streak. XU throttled SEC foe Mississippi State, 81-60, on Dec. 20 in the Cintas Center. Two days later in its last game, the Musketeers defeated Austin Peay, 87-41.
Wednesday’s game is only the second meeting between the two schools. LSU played well defensively against XU last season, but the Musketeers overcame a five-point halftime deficit to beat the Lady Tigers, 57-48, in Baton Rouge on Nov. 26, 2008.
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