Lady Tigers seek finishing kick at Alabama

Twenty minutes of hustle here.

Thirty minutes of intensity there.

Despite their dismal five-game losing streak, the LSU Lady Tigers’ play hasn’t been all bad all the time.

In fact, during their tailspin the Lady Tigers have twice lost by four points and twice by five. Their only loss going away was a 16-point defeat at the hands of the Southeastern Conference regular-season champion, South Carolina.

Since her team’s most recent defeat, a 72-67 loss Thursday to Tennessee in which the Lady Tigers rode defense and determination to tie the score with 3½ minutes left after trailing by 21 at halftime, LSU coach Nikki Caldwell has been trying to emphasize the positives with her players.

“We showed them the difference in the energy we possessed in the second half,” Caldwell said, “the energy plays. The type of hard work and the discipline to really defend Tennessee. Those are the things we have to build on and concentrate on for the entire 40 minutes.”

Playing a complete game is the eternal rabbit LSU has chased this entire season.

The Lady Tigers try to catch it one last time in the regular season Sunday at Alabama.

Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at Foster Auditorium in Tuscaloosa between LSU (18-10, 7-8) and Bama (13-15, 6-9). The game can be seen in Baton Rouge on WBXH, in New Orleans on WNOL and in Lafayette on KLAF. It can also be seen on WatchESPN.com and heard on WBRP-FM 107.3.

Turning a new page into the madness of March is perhaps the tonic for what ailed LSU during a 1-6 February.

LSU goes to Tuscaloosa trying to build momentum for the postseason, which for them begins Thursday at the SEC tournament in Duluth, Ga.

According to team spokesman Matt Dunaway, LSU could wind up anywhere from the No. 5 seed to the No. 10 seed, depending on how Sunday’s games shake out.

The middle of the SEC standings is tightly packed, with seven teams within two games of one another.

“You always want to go into the tournament playing good basketball,” Caldwell said. “That’s what we’re trying to do against a very good Alabama team — get this group believing in each other. It was evident in how tough we were defensively in the second half against Tennessee.”

But that game is done. In Alabama, LSU has enough to contend with.

The Crimson Tide has enjoyed a resurgent season under first-year coach Kristy Curry, an Olla native who played at UL-Monroe and was an assistant at Louisiana Tech under Leon Barmore.

Curry arrived after seven modestly successful seasons at Texas Tech (130-98 but with three straight 20-win seasons her last three years) to breathe life back into the Tide.

Bama won 57-55 at then-No. 9 Kentucky on Jan. 23, had Tennessee down early before losing 64-54 on Feb. 2 and won against traditional SEC powers Georgia and Vanderbilt.

“What they’re capable of doing starts with Daisha Simmons,” Caldwell said of Bama’s junior guard. “She’s a very explosive player. She can create her own shot any time and get to the basket when she wants to.

“Shafontaye Myers is another experienced guard who can extend the defense with the three. And (6-foot freshman forward) Ashley Williams is undersized but works hard.”

Myers averages 14.3 points per game, Simmons 13.4 and Williams 12.3.

LSU continues to be led by 6-5 senior forward Theresa Plaisance at 15.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. She’s one of only three players to rank in the top 11 in the SEC in both scoring and rebounding.

Plaisance played all 40 minutes against Tennessee, scoring 20 points. Two other Lady Tigers guards played long minutes against the Lady Volunteers — Jeanne Kenney with a team-high 21 points in 38 minutes, DaShawn Harden with 10 points in 34 minutes — leading Caldwell to taper her team’s practice Friday.

Freshman guard Raigyne Moncrief, LSU’s third-leading scorer at 10.9 points, had just two points in 10 minutes against Tennessee after sitting out LSU’s previous game against Arkansas with a knee injury.

Caldwell said Moncrief likely won’t start at Alabama but should be available to play more minutes.

NOTES: LSU fell out of The Associated Press Top 25 this week but is still No. 23 in the USA Today coaches’ poll. … LSU’s RPI is still No. 9 thanks to its top-ranked strength of schedule. … The Lady Tigers are trying to avoid finishing with a losing SEC record for the first time since 1995-96. … LSU has won five straight against Alabama and leads 35-16 overall, but at Bama the series is tied at 11.