Lady Tigers set to wrap up tough three-game stretch

What may be the toughest three-game stretch in LSU women’s basketball history wraps up with what may be the Lady Tigers’ toughest test yet.

After competitive but discouraging losses (for two different reasons) to No. 16-ranked Texas A&M on Monday and No. 12 Tennessee on Thursday, LSU hosts No. 9 Georgia at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. The game will be shown on ESPNU.

The losses to A&M and Tennessee dropped LSU to 13-10 overall and 4-6 in Southeastern Conference play. With a .500 conference record generally considered the benchmark for earning an NCAA tournament bid — LSU will again host the first two rounds of the NCAA women’s tournament in March — a minimum 4-2 record in the final six regular-season games is the Lady Tigers’ goal.

“We just all need to get on board,” junior guard Jeanne Kenney said. “It’s win or go home, literally. We all have to hold ourselves accountable and get some wins.

“I know we can win. We’re capable of winning. At times in the Tennessee game we played well as a team. We have to carry that over for 40 minutes.”

Despite their opponents’ national rankings, the Lady Tigers’ biggest adversary the last two games has, at times, been themselves.

LSU had to climb out of 9-0 holes against the Lady Aggies and Lady Volunteers. LSU never took the lead against A&M and couldn’t hold a three-point lead on Tennessee in the final minute. A layup with 0.8 seconds left by the Lady Vols’ Bashaara Graves was a potential nail in the Lady Tigers’ postseason coffin.

A&M pulled away from LSU with a 13-1 run in the final 3:58 to give the Lady Tigers’ their biggest losing deficit this season.

“It’s a big game and an opportunity for us to play as a team,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “Georgia is very quick. They are athletic and they like to run the basketball. They have very talented guards. They get on the boards. I like what I saw in our team in the fight and spirit against Tennessee and against Texas A&M with the exception of the last four minutes.”

Kenney, who delivered a stirring postgame speech to her teammates after Thursday’s game, is expected to be back in the starting lineup. Kenney left the A&M game with a sprained knee but somehow came off the bench three minutes in against Tennessee and played 30 minutes.

“I’m going until my leg falls off,” Kenney said with a weary smile. “I’ll play as needed.”

Caldwell is hopeful her team can play off Kenney’s toughness.

“You would never know that the kid is banged up, bruised and taped by her competitive spirit,” Caldwell said. “That’s what she brings to our team, toughness. It has a lot to do with who Jeanne Kenney is. She’s that type of player that sacrifices whether it’s her body or a shot to give her teammates a look.”

Junior forward Theresa Plaisance continues to lead the SEC with 18 points and 2.8 blocks per game along with 8.0 rebounds. Against Tennessee she had 20 points, nine rebounds and five blocks, but missed a crucial front end of a one-and-one opportunity in the final minute against Tennessee along with teammate Bianca Lutley.

Georgia (20-3, 8-2) is led by the combination of Jasmine Hassell and Jasmine James, who are averaging 11.8 points and 11.4 points per game, respectively.

Notes

The game has been designated as LSU’s annual Pink Game for breast cancer awareness. LSU players will wear pink uniforms and pink shoes. … The first 1,500 fans will receive a pink T-shirt. Breast cancer survivors will be honored on the court at halftime. … LSU is 5-0 in Pink Games at home, including two wins against Georgia. … Freshman guard Coco Baker has once again been suspended for violation of team rules, Caldwell said. The former Helen Cox star has played in just seven games for LSU this season and once again leaves the Lady Tigers with nine players. … Former All-SEC forward LaSondra Barrett practiced with the Lady Tigers on Saturday and will attend the game Sunday. Barrett recently returned from playing with an Israeli pro team in Tel Aviv. … Former LSU guard Katherine Graham (2008-11) will be on the Georgia bench as a graduate assistant. ... Melissa Lee and Maria Taylor will call the game on ESPNU. … LSU will have a week off before playing next Sunday at Mississippi State (12:30 p.m., FSN).