On the face of it, the LSU Lady Tigers’ 1-7 road record appears dismal. Throwing in a neutral site tournament win in Miami over then-No. 12-ranked West Virginia helps a bit, but not much.
Despite that, though, LSU has had chances to win every road game it has lost. Even Sunday’s 73-60 defeat at then-No. 5 Kentucky was a two possession game in the final moments until the Wildcats pulled away late.
Thursday night at Auburn, LSU (12-8, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) has to be in it to win it for 40 minutes, as the Lady Tigers once again face a crucial road game before returning home for an even tougher three-game homestand against three ranked opponents.
“In every one of our road games, we’ve had opportunities to win,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “Our game against Kentucky was a very winnable game, but they made big plays when they needed them, and we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities.
“I do think they (LSU players) have the confidence in their preparation. It definitely comes down to our intensity on the defensive end, our transition defense, and making an even stronger commitment to keeping people off the offensive glass.”
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at Auburn Arena between LSU and Auburn (13-7, 2-5 SEC). The game will not be televised but can be heard locally on WBRP-FM, 107.3, or in the Geaux Zone at LSUSports.net.
LSU has spent most of January on the road. The Lady Tigers held serve in their three home games against Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, but lost at Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina and Kentucky.
After Auburn, LSU returns home to take on No. 16 Texas A&M on Monday, No. 9 Tennessee on Thursday, Feb. 7, and No. 13 Georgia on Feb. 13.
LSU, which has only a 10-player roster, again had to play even more shorthanded at Kentucky when redshirt freshman guard Anne Pedersen sat out with an ankle injury.
Junior guard Jeanne Kenney also left the UK game briefly with a knee injury, but Caldwell said she expects both to be fully ready to play at Auburn.
Though Kenney is averaging just 5.1 points per game this season, she ranks second in the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio (plus-3.0) and has filled a needed role for the Lady Tigers, Caldwell said.
“She will try to do whatever we ask of her,” said Caldwell, who Wednesday was named as an assistant coach this summer on USA Basketball’s U19 world championship team. “We definitely want to make sure she’s on the floor, because she brings a calmness to us. She knows who to get the ball to at crucial times and is a great passer for us, whether it’s finding Adrienne Webb on the wing for a 3-pointer or Theresa Plaisance in the low block for an easy layup.”
Plaisance, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, continues to play at an All-SEC pace, leading the conference in scoring and blocked shots with 18.3 points and 2.8 blocks per game along with 8.0 rebounds per contest.
Plaisance has scored in double figures in 19 straight games and leads the SEC with eight games of 20 points or more.
Three other LSU players average in double figures: Webb (13.6 ppg), a 5-9 senior guard; 5-9 freshman guard Danielle Ballard (13.1); and 5-11 senior guard Bianca Lutley (10.6).
Auburn got off to a strong 13-2 start under first year coach Terri Williams-Flournoy — she coached at Georgetown last season — but has since dropped five of its past six.
That string includes a 61-51 loss last Thursday at Alabama.
Like LSU, though, Auburn has been tough at home, sporting a 9-1 record.
Hasina Muhammad, a 6-1 sophomore guard, leads Auburn with 16.5 points per game.
Najat Ouardad, a 5-1 senior guard, leads the SEC with 6.8 assists per game.