POSTED: Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 6:00pm
UPDATED: Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 6:04pm
Baton Rouge, La — Five LSU seniors will take the Maravich Center floor in a regular season game for the final time as the surging Lady Tiger basketball team seeks to build on their five-game winning streak against 24th-ranked Vanderbilt at 8 p.m. Thursday live on Fox Sports Net.
Dave Neal and Debbie Antonelli will handle the call on FSN with the game also being streamed outside of SEC markets on ESPN3.com. The LSU Sports Radio Network will carry it on WBRP-FM 107.3 in Baton Rouge and to members of the Geaux Zone on www.LSUsports.net/live .
The five seniors will be honored prior to the game in a special ceremony that gets underway at 7:40 p.m. Forwards LaSondra Barrett, Taylor Turnbow, Swayze Black and Courtney Jones will all play in their final regular season PMAC appearance. Point guard Destini Hughes, despite suffering a season-ending knee injury at Tennessee, continues to serve as an inspiration to the team on and off the floor from practice to the classroom.
"You can't say enough about these five seniors and it's been an honor to be their coach for a year," said LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell. "They continue to bring it together and lead this team in their own respective ways. You can't ask for a better senior class. I remember when they came to Los Angeles and beat UCLA. You could tell there was greatness in them. It's been an honor to be their head coach and they will be successful young ladies in their future endeavors."
The first 3,000 fans in attendance on Thursday receive the 2011-12 set of Lady Tiger trading cards featuring all 13 LSU players, head coach Nikki Caldwell and assistant coaches. Tickets for the game start at $6 for adult general admission and $3 for youth general admission. Tickets are on sale at LSUtix.net and on gameday, the Maravich Center ticket office opens on the upper ramps at 6:30 p.m.
LSU (19-8, 9-5 SEC) has ascended into a four-way tie for third place in the Southeastern Conference standings in the final week of the regular season. A win on Thursday would improve the Lady Tigers' chances of securing a bye in next week's SEC Tournament that gets underway on Thursday in Nashville. The top four finishers receive a first round bye.
To do it, LSU will have to take on two of the conference's elite teams, both of whom are ranked in the latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll. Vanderbilt (20-7, 8-6) faces a quick turnaround after dropping a 71-60 contest at eighth-ranked Kentucky on Monday night. Head coach Melanie Balcomb's team has led the SEC in field goal percentage and free throw percentage throughout the season.
The teams are meeting for the second time this year. Freshman Kady Schrann erupted for 29 points as Vanderbilt rode a sharp-shooting effort to a 81-72 win in Nashville on Jan. 29. The 81 points were the most allowed by LSU this season.
"We broke down in some defensive assignments there," said Caldwell. "They were clicking on all cylinders. Vanderbilt has always been a great offensive team. Melanie Balcomb does a great job in getting her teams prepared late in postseason. We have to be able to match that."
The Lady Tigers have since reclaimed their defensive identity, holding four straight opponents to under 50 points. LSU has held eight SEC opponents to 50 points or less this season, matching a school record set by the 2007-08 Final Four team. During the current five-game winning streak, opponents are shooting only 31.7 percent on LSU.
Barrett is playing perhaps the best basketball of her career. She's averaging 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game during the win streak. In SEC play, she's up to third in the league in rebounding with 8.1 boards per contest. For the season, no player in the SEC has shot more (168) or attempted more free throws (123) than Barrett.
"She is coming through in the clutch," said Caldwell. "She's been challenged this year to play many positions for us. She's one of the few players in the country that you could say has played one through five (positions). She's playing like an All-American - rebounding, defending, scoring and distributing the basketball. Most importantly, she's being a leader."
Vanderbilt has won three in a row in the series with LSU's last win coming on Feb. 18, 2010 in the Maravich Center ... The Lady Tigers are 3-0 against ranked teams at home this season ... LSU is seeking its 24th 20-win season in the 37-year history of the program ... LSU's official NCAA RPI jumped from No. 34 to No. 26 on Monday ... LSU is one win away from its 10th 10-win SEC season.