LSU women's basketball team is coming on strong

Senior night for the LSU Lady Tigers, as for most other basketball teams around the country, will carry with it the weight of emotions and memories for the players making their last regular-season turn on their home court.

But for LSU seniors Adrienne Webb and Bianca Lutley, blend determination into the nostalgic mix, a jaw set firmly toward the future and making sure there is at least one more game for them and the Lady Tigers in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center this year.

LSU will be one of 16 host sites for NCAA tournament first- and second-round games again this season, March 24 and 26.

A late season surge has taken the Lady Tigers (17-10, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) off the NCAA bubble and lodged them firmly in the field of 64.

“I feel like we’ll be back here playing in March,” said Webb, a senior from Madison, Ala., who leads LSU against her home state school at 7 p.m. Thursday in the PMAC.

“We’ve hit a point in the season where we’re starting to turn that corner and that we’re a family and playing better when we’re together. It looks a lot better from the beginning of the season to now.”

Better as long as the Lady Tigers keep their focus and don’t let a downtrodden Alabama team (12-15, 2-12 SEC) pull what would be a monumental upset.

“Any given night is anyone’s game,” said Lutley, a senior from Pensacola, Fla. “Everybody will come out with the mindset that we’re going to get it off the jump and take over the game.

“Of course we don’t want this to be our last game (at home). We want to push through the rest of the season so we’ll be able to hear our name called on Selection Monday.”

All the signs point to the Lady Tigers currently having a firm grasp on an NCAA at-large berth:

RPI: LSU shot up from No. 56 to No. 41 this week, the biggest leap by any team in the top 50.

Streaking: LSU has won four straight, including two over then-top-10 ranked teams: Georgia and Kentucky.

Quality and quantity: LSU has a solid 4-5 record against teams in the RPI top 50 and no losses against teams currently outside the RPI top 100.

LSU is also playing for seeding in the SEC tournament, which begins Wednesday in Duluth, Ga.

The Lady Tigers will play March 7 as either the No. 6 or the No. 7 seed. LSU will earn the higher seed if it wins its final two games or if Vanderbilt (18-9, 8-6) loses one of its final two at home against Auburn on Thursday or at Georgia on Sunday.

If LSU is the No. 7 seed, it will play at 5 p.m. against the No. 10 seed. If the Lady Tigers are the No. 6 seed they will play No. 11 at 7:30 p.m.

The Nos. 10 and 11 seeds will be either Auburn, Missouri or Mississippi State.

Alabama is slogging through another dismal campaign, destined for its third straight losing season and a slot in the SEC tournament’s lone first-round game Wednesday.

The Crimson Tide has lost eight straight and nine of its past 10, though included in that march of misery was a six-point loss Jan. 31 at Georgia (65-59) and a six-point loss at home Sunday to Florida (67-61).

Sophomore Daisha Simmons, a transfer from Rutgers, leads Bama with 12.4 points per game.

Junior guard Shafontaye Myers is second in the SEC with 2.8 3-pointers per game.

“Just because there’s not a (ranking) number in front of Alabama’s name does not mean they are not a worthy opponent,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “We need to play this game as though we are one of the best teams in the country and execute our game plan no matter who we’re playing against.”

Junior forward Theresa Plaisance goes into the final game of the weekend locked in a three-way battle for the SEC scoring title.

Plaisance and Tennessee’s Meighan Simmons both average 17.8 points per game, though Plaisance has scored one more point (481 to 480). Texas A&M’s Kelsey Bone is a close third at 17.6 per contest.

LSU is down from 10 to eight scholarship players and may really be down to 7½ for this game. Junior guard Jeanne Kenney scored a career-high 22 points Sunday against Kentucky despite a stress reaction in her left foot that held her out of practice Tuesday and Wednesday.

“You’d like to get her some minutes, especially this being senior night,” Caldwell said of Kenney. “But we definitely want to make sure her health is our No. 1 priority.”

Caldwell said junior forward Shanece McKinney will start after leaving the Kentucky game late with a frightening fall that resulted in a pair of bruised knees.

The game will not be televised but heard locally on 107.3 FM.