BATON ROUGE - Eleven months removed from a Southeastern Conference championship game match-up between two of the league's elite, the LSU women's basketball team and the 12th-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols meet again as the Lady Tigers seek to bounce back from a rare home loss in an 8 p.m. CT Thursday tipoff in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Tickets for the game are available at www.LSUtix.net or they can be purchased at the Maravich Center box office beginning at 7 p.m. It will be teacher appreciation night and tickets are $1 for teachers. LSU students are admitted free to the contest with a valid LSU ID. There will be 1,000 LSU basketball rally towels distributed at entrances.
The contest will be televised by Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS) and also carried on Cox Sports Television (CST) with Lyn Rollins (play-by-play) and Maria Taylor (analyst) handling the call. The LSU Sports Radio Network will broadcast it 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 (13-8, 4-5) dropped a 74-57 decision to No. 14 Texas A&M on Monday night, and the Lady Tigers face a quick turnaround having to play two more top-12 ranked teams over the next four days. No. 9 Georgia comes to Baton Rouge for a 12:30 p.m. CT Sunday in the "Pink Game."
"We have to play 40 minutes of basketball," said LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell. "Not 36, not 38, but 40 (minutes). We have to continue to answer runs and make our own runs. I saw a team that fought, but in the last few minutes of the (Texas A&M) game, we can really learn from that and be better."
The Lady Tigers sit in seventh place in the SEC standings with seven games remaining. Tennessee, meanwhile, is tied atop the league with a 17-5 overall record and an 8-1 mark in conference play. After opening SEC play 8-0, the Lady Vols fell victim to Missouri's sharp outside shooting in an 80-63 loss in Columbia on Sunday.
Thursday's game also matches two best friends in Caldwell and Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick. The two have played a pivotal role in raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research in the South. Together, they co-founded the non-profit organization "Champions for a Cause."
Caldwell played for the Lady Vols from 1990-94 and later spent six seasons as an assistant coach for Pat Summitt from 2002-08. It will represent the first time in the 36-year history of the series that legendary coach Pat Summitt will not be on the sidelines. From LSU legend Sue Gunter to Tennessee's Summitt, there have been historic games played over the years.
A new crop of young players take centerstage today. Both Tennessee and LSU feature arguably the SEC's top two freshmen in Lady Vol forward Bashaara Graves and Lady Tiger guard Danielle Ballard. Graves leads all SEC freshmen in scoring with 14.3 points, while Ballard is second with 12.8 points per game. Ballard put on a show Monday night, increasing her SEC overall lead in steals per game with four to move to 3.1.
Though she struggled from the floor, LSU's Theresa Plaisance continues to lead the conference in scoring with 17.9 points per game. With Plaisance and Tennessee guard Meighan Simmons, the contest also features two of the nation's most dynamic scorers. Simmons is tops in the conference in scoring in league only games with 19.2 points per contest.
"Meighan Simmons is a threat to anybody," said Caldwell. "She's a great one-on-one player. Bashaara Graves has been playing some big-time for basketball for them. They are coming off a loss to Missouri and knowing Holly Warlick, she won't be happy. I know she will have her team coming in here hungry. We have to make sure we are ready to play and match their intensity."
LSU guard Jeanne Kenney, who sustained a left knee injury in the second half of the A&M game, did practice in a limited role on Wednesday. She is day-to-day and the extent of her availability against Tennessee will be re-evaluated on Thursday.
Tennessee has dominated the all-time series, 43-12, and the Lady Vols have won the last six meetings overall, including a 70-58 triumph in last year's SEC Tournament championship in Nashville. LSU's last win over Tennessee was a 63-61 score in Baton Rouge on Feb. 26, 2009.