LSU, Tulane women renew tightly contested rivalry

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS.  -- LSU head women's basketball coach Nikki Caldwell gives instructions to her players in the second half of LSU's 70-58 loss to Tennessee Sunday in the SEC Championship game in the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS. -- LSU head women's basketball coach Nikki Caldwell gives instructions to her players in the second half of LSU's 70-58 loss to Tennessee Sunday in the SEC Championship game in the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

The only thing closer than the LSU and Tulane campuses in this in-state women’s basketball rivalry has been the results of the games.

LSU won three years ago 73-65 at Tulane, but the game was decided in overtime. Tulane won 54-52 in 2010 at LSU, then turned back the Lady Tigers 65-62 in overtime a season ago.

To expect anything less than another taut thriller when LSU hosts Tulane at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center would be foolish, both coaches said.

“An in-state rivalry with a lot on the line this time of year makes for a very intense game,” LSU’s Nikki Caldwell said.

“This is ... always a close game,” Tulane’s Lisa Stockton said. “It’s always really competitive, and they’re playing very well right now, so we’ll have to be ready to play our best basketball.”

Both teams come into this annual early-season showdown playing some of their best.

LSU (4-2) ran its winning streak to three games last Sunday with an 81-73 victory over visiting N.C. State. Tulane (6-1) rebounded from a 70-65 loss at Auburn to win 73-58 at home last Sunday against UNC-Wilmington.

The N.C. State game included the debut of LSU’s four-guard, one-post lineup. The Lady Tigers added freshman Danielle Ballard — second among Southeastern Conference freshmen at 13.2 points per game — to a guard-heavy lineup that included seniors Adrienne Webb (15.2 points, 3.8 rebounds per game) and Bianca Lutley (9.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and junior Jeanne Kenney (6.8 points, 4.3 assists).

LSU’s only starting post player is 6-foot-5 Theresa Plaisance, who has blossomed as a full-time starter in her junior season. Plaisance, coming off a career-high 28 points against N.C. State, is second in the SEC at 17.8 points per game, fourth in rebounding (8.7) and second in blocks (2.3).

“I think the team has a lot of confidence in me now, and I have more confidence in myself,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Tulane will go with a more traditional lineup with two guards, two forwards and a center. Janique Kautsky, a 5-9 junior forward, is the Green Wave’s only double-figure scorer at 10.3 points per game. Olivia Grayson, a 5-8 senior point guard, averages 9.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists.

LSU’s biggest concern against Tulane is rebounding. The Lady Tigers have a minus-3.2 rebounding deficit for the season, averaging 34.7 rebounds per contest. Tulane is at plus-7.0, averaging 41.7.

“We have a smaller group of players than we had previously,” Caldwell said. “We all have to focus every day because we’re undersized when we’re in our (extra) guard lineup.”

Notes

The game will be televised on CST. Lyn Rollins and Victor Howell will handle the commentary. The game can be heard on radio in Baton Rouge on WBRP-FM, 107.3 ... Caldwell is going for her 100th career win. She is 27-13 at LSU and was 72-26 in three seasons at UCLA. ... LSU leads the all-time series 28-5. ... The Lady Tigers continue their homestand at 7 p.m. Tuesday against East Tennessee State. The Green Wave is off until Dec. 19, when they open a six-game home stand at 11 a.m. against Louisiana-Lafayette.