Lady Tigers Begin Quest for SEC Tournament Title
DULUTH, Ga. -- Postseason tournament basketball officially begins for 21st-ranked LSU as the Lady Tigers begin their quest for a third Southeastern Conference Tournament championship in the second round against Vanderbilt at 5:30 p.m. CST Friday in the Gwinnett Center.
The game will be televised by Fox Sports Net South/Southwest with Dave Neal and Teresa Edwards handling the call. Fans can also go online and watch all first and second round games on www.ESPN360.com. The game can be heard on the LSU Sports Radio Network on 107.3 FM and in the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net.
LSU (20-8, 9-7 SEC) rattled off victories in five of its last six regular season games to earn the tournament's No. 4 seed and receive a first round bye for the ninth consecutive season. All five of those wins have come in double-digit fashion, including a 76-47 blowout of Mississippi State last Sunday in the regular season finale.
"I'm excited about March, and I am excited about SEC and NCAA Tournament play, but I'm even more excited about how we are playing right now," LSU head coach Van Chancellor said. "I think our team right now is playing as well as they've played all year."
LSU finished in a four-way tie with the Lady Bulldogs, Vanderbilt and Georgia but earned the No. 4 seed via the tiebreaker. The fifth-seeded Commodores defeated 12th-seeded Arkansas in overtime on Thursday afternoon, 65-64, in the first round.
"First of all, there is no question in my mind, any time you draw a bye, you're excited, but the conference has been so up and down this year, you don't know who is going to win games," Chancellor said. "At the end of the year, Florida got upset by Alabama. I didn't think South Carolina would beat Vandy, so you don't ever know. I think the conference tournament over a period of years has always had a couple of upsets. I think there will be some this year."
LSU is 28-28 all-time in SEC Tournament play and the Lady Tigers have won the tournament crown twice - 1991 and 2003. LSU has reached at least the semifinals of the SEC Tournament in each of the past eight seasons. Vanderbilt eliminated the Lady Tigers in last year's semifinal en route to the tournament title.
Defense has once again been the cornerstone of LSU's late-season surge. The Lady Tigers surrender only 51.8 points per game, a figure that ranks first in the SEC for the sixth straight season and fourth nationally.
Chancellor will go with a lineup that includes guard Allison Hightower, guard Katherine Graham, point guard Destini Hughes and forwards Courtney Jones and LaSondra Barrett. Hightower earned first-team All-SEC honors for the second straight year on Tuesday. Barrett was a second-team All-SEC recipient.
Hightower ranks second in the SEC in scoring with 18.3 points per contest. She's been a part of 100 victories during her LSU career but seeks her first SEC Tournament title. In her last six games, she has averaged 22.2 points and she owns six 20-plus point games in her last 10 contests. Hightower buried 26 points in her final home game at the Maravich Center.
Hightower talked about the team going back to fundamentals, which has led LSU to recent success.
"We are starting to play well and playing as well as we are capable, but we still have a lot of work to do," Hightower said. "We came back to practice and cleaned up a bunch of things and got back to the basics and the details on what we need to do to get better and to better ourselves as we head into the tournament."
Hughes' defense has played havoc on opposing perimeter players, while Graham has racked up 40 assists, 11.1 ppg and 6.3 rpg in her last seven contests. Barrett continues to be LSU's leading rebounder with 6.8 per game.