DULUTH, Ga. - The 22nd-ranked LSU women's basketball team is playing arguably the best basketball of any team in the Southeastern Conference. Riding a league-best and season-best six-game winning streak, a new season begins for the Lady Tigers at 7:30 p.m. CT Thursday.
No. 6 seed LSU seeks to continue the momentum it has established against No. 11 seed Auburn in the second round of the 2013 SEC Tournament at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga.
The Lady Tigers (19-10) claimed sixth place in the final SEC standings with a 10-6 mark, and LSU is aiming for a 20-win season for the second straight year under head coach Nikki Caldwell. The team has firmly positioned itself for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, which it will host on March 24 and 26 in the Maravich Center.
"We have tremendous confidence as a team," said Caldwell. "We are doing what we need to do to win games. Their hard work has certainly paid off and we are reaping the benefits of that. We are low in numbers but our spirits are high. We struggled early but we have put those losses behind us. We are a better defensive team and better rebounding team."
Thursday's game will be televised on Fox Sports Louisiana (cable channel 1079 HD for Cox Communications subscribers in Baton Rouge) and it will also be streamed live on ESPN3.com and the Watch ESPN App for tablet users.
The LSU Sports Radio Network will carry the action beginning with the tipoff show at 7 p.m. CT. Patrick Wright will call the game on Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge and to members of the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net/live. In-game updates are available via Twitter at www.Twitter.com/LSUwbkb.
LSU is seeking its third all-time SEC Tournament title and first since the 2003 season. The Lady Tigers nearly pulled it off last year in Caldwell's first season, knocking off top-seed Kentucky in the semifinals before falling to Tennessee in the championship in what would be Pat Summitt's final SEC game. Gone are five faces from that team, however, the 2013 Lady Tigers have established their own identity with a roster of eight players.
"We have established a slogan that 'eight is enough' and we are playing that way," said Caldwell. "We are making the most of our opportunity. We have tried not to log a lot of minutes in practice, so our team's attention span has been a lot more focused."
Theresa Plaisance, who was named first-team All-SEC, leads the team in four categories, including scoring (17.6 ppg), rebounding (8.2 ppg), blocks (2.8 bpg) and field goal percentage (45.5 percent). Plaisance is in the top 10 in the SEC in all four of those categories highlighted by a league-best 80 blocks, which is fifth in LSU single-season history.
All-SEC freshman Danielle Ballard continues to shine, posting back-to-back doubles in LSU's last two wins. She scored 15 points and had a game-high 11 rebounds in the Lady Tigers' dominating 67-52 triumph at No. 13 Texas A&M on Sunday.
Senior guard Adrienne Webb, a second-team All-SEC selection, is averaging 13.9 points per game - ninth in the SEC - and Bianca Lutley has combined for 56 points, 14 assists and nine steals in her last four games.
Auburn (16-13, 5-11) enters the game having played better of late with wins in three of its last five contests. The Tigers dismantled Mississippi State 74-65 on Sunday. LSU and Auburn are meeting in SEC Tournament play for the first time since March 4, 1994. The Lady Tigers are 0-5 all-time against Auburn in the tournament.
The two teams met earlier this season and LSU escaped Auburn with a 59-55 win behind a game-high 21 points from Alabama native Adrienne Webb. Auburn had a chance to tie in the final 20 seconds, but Ballard picked up a key steal and made two free throws to preserve the victory for LSU.
The winner of Thursday's game will face No. 3 seed Georgia in the quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. CT Friday. The Lady Bulldogs earned a bye as one of the top four seeds.