My boss, Michael Bonnette, looked at me while sitting outside the LSU press conference and said after the LSU women’s stunning 71-66 win over Penn State Monday night deserves a “Lowedown” column.
He was right. He then looked at me and said: “Here’s your lead. ‘Sue Gunter would surely be proud.’”
I’m pretty sure as I write this as the clock clicks toward midnight that she would be proud and smiling broadly, but she probably also was stomping her heel after a few of the calls that make you think there just aren’t enough good women’s officials to call at 16 different sites.
But that’s another subject for another time.
The veteran Hall of Fame coach made winning games like this a part of her life at Stephen F. Austin and LSU. She won the games she wasn’t supposed to and showed that LSU could compete for Southeastern Conference championships and go to Sweet 16s and Elite 8s and Final Fours.
Now it’s another LSU women’s coach and her era. It is time for Nikki Caldwell to take her team as far as they can go. And, frankly, when you get to the Sweet 16, you have as good a chance as anyone to play as long as you can.
The heart and soul was ripped out of the Lady Tigers on Sunday when Jeanne Kenney went down late in the win over Green Bay. But apparently there was a heart transplant Tuesday night and it may have occurred in the Sue Gunter Complex at halftime when LSU trailed Penn State by seven, 42-35.
The numbers that will somehow always be remembered with this game are 6, 7 and 3,055.
6 – When LSU pulled off the upset over nationally-ranked Penn State, it meant that every No. 6 seed in the women’s tournament had beaten a three seed. Nebraska beat A&M, Oklahoma took down UCLA and Delaware won over North Carolina. Who had that in your women’s bracket? What are the odds that all four No. 6 seeds would still be dancing in the round of 16?
7 – That’s all the players LSU had dressed. Apparently that’s all LSU needed. Although an eighth would have been wonderful, this night would be “seven heaven” for LSU. Everyone played (obviously), everyone contributed in their own way (thankfully) and somehow LSU found enough managers and trainers to fill out the bench to make things not look too empty.
3,055 – That was the tickets sold. Don’t know if everyone used them, but those that did came prepared to yell and yell loud. It was some atmosphere and the setup of the Maravich Center may be something the women’s program might want to look at in the future. The crowd seemed more condensed into a couple of areas and just urged and pleased and played like the team’s eighth, ninth and 10th players on the bench.
Down 42-35, LSU scored the first 10 points of the half and suddenly found themselves up 45-42. That put the crowd in a fever pitch and the game was on. That’s pretty much what the second half was based on. One run for them. One run for us. An 8-0 run in which LSU was 0-8 from the field gave Penn State a 60-55 advantage.
LSU then would go on a 10-2 run for a 65-62 advantage. But four straight by Penn State gave the Nittany Lions a 66-65 advantage with 48.5 seconds left. Penn State never scored again. LSU would get the final six points and the victory belonged to the team in purple. The visitors on the scoreboard, but No. 1 in the LSU fans hearts and minds.
It’s approaching 12:45 a.m. as I’ve stopped several times in the media room at the Maravich Center to talk with writers and we’ve found out LSU’s game will tip at 10:32 p.m. CDT Saturday night which led to a collective groan from much of the local media. Doesn’t that just figure? LSU and California. You’ll have to watch because you won’t find too many newspapers in this part of the country with that final. Maybe there is something to this internet edition of a paper after all.
I feel before putting a -30- on this column (an old newspaper term signaling the end of the story) that seven names should be mentioned and they are the seven players – Theresa Plaisance, Shanece McKinney, Bianca Lutley, Adrienne Webb, Danielle Ballard, Derreyal Youngblood, Anne Pedersen. Maybe I should mention an eighth – Jeanne Kenney. She was in this team’s thoughts all day and throughout this game and she had to be one happy person when it was over.
I’ve heard Spokane is beautiful this time of year. I don’t know if that is true, but it’s what I’ve heard. But it is going to be Spokane in our minds because the LSU Lady Tigers are still playing and still fighting and whether it will be seven or eight on Saturday night, the team is still practicing and doing what they love – bouncing a basketball.
LSU and California Saturday night. The Sweet 16. How can you root against these guys? I’m sure some LSU fans are up at this late hour that I’m writing scrambling to find a flight to Spokane. I know they will find one to get them there to enjoy the moment. In the end, LSU wanted it more and made the plays when it counted to take the game away from Penn State.
You know, that’s how Sue Gunter used to coach it at LSU. Now it’s a wonderful lady named Caldwell marching up and down the sideline coaching it up pretty good at LSU. Spokane here come the Lady Tigers! It’s already been quite a ride!