LSU women try to extend hex over No. 5 Kentucky

There probably isn’t an equivalent to the word “voodoo” in the Kentucky lexicon. Perhaps, though, in thoroughbred country, there is a term for one horse just having another horse’s number.

Whatever it’s called, that’s what LSU had over Kentucky last season.

In two games against the Southeastern Conference regular-season champions last year LSU took down what was by all accounts a superior team, winning 61-51 in Baton Rouge on Super Bowl Sunday and 72-61 in the SEC tournament a month later.

Sunday, LSU finds itself in a similar spot, an undermanned team going up against highly rated UK and trying to keep the hex going.

Coach Nikki Caldwell said her team has the confidence to believe it can do it again.

“It always helps to have players who know the pressure Kentucky can bring and having had some success against that pressure,” Caldwell said. “Especially Jean Kenney, who orchestrated that game plan (last season). Then you have Bianca Lutley and Adrienne Webb. That’s three guards who understand that Kentucky defense.

“But our confidence has to come from within. It’s got to be from us having really good plays early on so we don’t lose it. We have to come in with our confident tank full and maintain it throughout the game.”

Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. Sunday at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky., between LSU (12-7, 3-3 SEC) and No. 5-ranked Kentucky (18-2, 6-1).

The game can be seen on Fox Sports Net and ESPN3.com and heard locally on 107.3-FM.

LSU is coming off one of its best wins of the season, taking down Vanderbilt 54-51 last Sunday in Baton Rouge.

The Lady Tigers are 10-1 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The road has been a much less accommodating place.

LSU is 2-6 away from home, though none of those losses have been by more than nine points.

LSU has had a bad habit on road trips of falling into big holes early, something they can’t afford to do at Kentucky.

Forward Theresa Plaisance knows a fast start will be critical to the Lady Tigers’ hopes.

“The first four-minute segment will be huge for us,” said Plaisance, the SEC’s leader in scoring (18.3 points per game) and blocked shots (2.9 bpg). “We can’t start in a hole. Getting down any way will be huge.”

Kentucky is coming off a 55-50 loss Thursday at South Carolina — LSU lost there 66-59 on Jan. 17 — a defeat that cost the Wildcats a share of the SEC lead (Tennessee is out front at 7-0).

But UK remains a formidable, perhaps even more dangerous, foe.

Senior guard A’dia Mathies, the returning SEC player of the year, leads a potent inside-outside attack with 15.2 points per game.

She’s joined in the paint by 6-foot-3 junior center DeNesha Stallworth, averaging 14.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

Samarie Walker, a 6-1 forward, adds to the degree of difficulty with her 9.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

“They’re two dominant post players,” said Plaisance, who averages 7.9 rebounds per game. “Keeping them off the boards will be key.”

So will be holding onto the ball.

Kentucky opponents average 25.7 turnovers per game. LSU commits 15.7 turnovers per contest, though that’s slightly lower than UK (15.9).

A slow, deliberate, ball-protecting tempo is what got the Lady Tigers through their two upsets of Kentucky last season. Plaisance said it’ll have to be the same plan again.

“It’ll be a very similar approach to last year,” she said.

“Our coaches put in a very strict game plan that we had to follow. It worked and we stayed patient. We didn’t let Kentucky’s game mess with ours.”

Getting Webb (13.4 ppg), freshman Danielle Ballard (13.4 ppg) and Lutley (10.7 ppg) to complement Plaisance’s scoring inside could carry LSU to another win, Caldwell said.

“We will continue to use that balanced attack to try to come away with a win on Sunday,” she said.

A little voodoo magic wouldn’t hurt, either.