Tough stretch lies ahead

Next seven games critical for Lady Tigers

Advocate file  photo by PATRICK DENNISLSU's Jeanne Kenney drives past San Diego State's Chelsea Hopkins las season in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Kenney is expected to return to the Lady Tigers lineup Thursday night after being sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNISLSU's Jeanne Kenney drives past San Diego State's Chelsea Hopkins las season in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Kenney is expected to return to the Lady Tigers lineup Thursday night after being sidelined with a shoulder injury.

The story of the LSU Lady Tigers’ season will likely be written in the next seven games.

Starting with Thursday’s 6 p.m. CST game at South Carolina, LSU will play seven straight opponents that are currently ahead of or tied with the Lady Tigers in the Southeastern Conference standings.

Five of them are in The Associated Press Top 25, including South Carolina, which checks in at No. 18.

Three of those games are on the road, a slight break for LSU (11-6, 2-2 SEC) except that the Lady Tigers haven’t had much success away from the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

LSU is 2-5 on the road, stuck in the rut of a three-game road losing streak that includes back-to-back losses last week at Florida (77-72) and Arkansas (63-54).

“In order to be a contender in the SEC, we have got to win on the road,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “It starts with our mindset and attitude when we get away from our home court and Baton Rouge.

“If we execute our game plan, we can be successful.”

The Lady Tigers executed their defensive game plan as well as at any time so far this season their last time out.

LSU stifled a spirited but outmanned Mississippi State team 62-42 Sunday, tying a season low for fewest points by a Lady Tigers opponent (LSU beat East Tennessee State 76-42 on Dec. 13).

Holding an opponent in the 40s or below is common occurrence for South Carolina, though. The Lady Gamecocks have done that 13 times this season, including in a 42-40 loss at Georgia on Sunday. South Carolina is ranked third nationally, allowing just 47.1 points per game.

“South Carolina is a very intense team,” Caldwell said. “They get after the basketball. They deny passes and try to get deflection steals. It was a battle when we played them last year. I know it will be another battle on Thursday.”

Carrying the fight to South Carolina will be LSU’s inside-outside combo of 6-foot-5 junior forward Theresa Plaisance and 5-9 senior guard Adrienne Webb.

Plaisance is second in the SEC in scoring (17.8 ppg), eighth in rebounding (7.9) and first in blocked shots (3.1). Webb (13.6 ppg) is coming off a career-high 28-point effort against Mississippi State.

Operating with a roster comprising just 10 players, LSU is expected to get a much-needed boost with the return of 5-8 junior guard Jeanne Kenney.

Kenney, averaging 5.4 points and a team-best 4.5 assists per game, sat out Sunday’s game after suffering a shoulder injury Friday in practice but was able to practice Wednesday.

South Carolina is led by 6-0 sophomore forward Aleighsa Welch and 5-9 freshman guard Tiffany Mitchell with 12.6 and 10.5 points, respectively.

Notes

The game will be played at Carolina Coliseum instead of Colonial Life Arena, South Carolina’s normal home venue, because of a concert there. ... LSU is averaging 73.2 points per game so far this season, its highest average since 2005-06 (74.1 ppg). … The weekly TV show “Inside LSU Lady Tigers Basketball with Nikki Caldwell” debuts at 10 p.m. Tuesday on Cox Cable Ch. 4 and WBRT Ch. 19 in Baton Rouge. The show airs statewide on CST at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. … LSU holds a commanding 22-4 lead in the South Carolina series, including a 58-48 win at home on Jan. 12, 2012. LSU is 10-2 in Columbia, but lost on its last trip there in 2011 (63-61). … The game will not be televised but will be heard locally on WBRP-FM, 107.3.