DULUTH, Ga. — It may be the most closely watched left foot in the entire Southeastern Conference tournament.
A stress reaction in her left foot has caused LSU guard Jeanne Kenney to be limited in her practice and play since coming off the bench Feb. 24 to light up No. 7 Kentucky for 22 points in a 77-72 Lady Tigers upset win.
Since then, Kenney has logged a total of 33 minutes against Alabama and Texas A&M, scoring 10 points.
LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said Kenney will again play a reserve role Thursday when the No. 22 Lady Tigers — the No. 6 seed — take on No. 11-seeded Auburn at 7:30 p.m. CST.
“We’re going to use her when we have to,” Caldwell said Wednesday. “Obviously our goal is to be here for four straight games, so we have to be selective.”
Caldwell said she will depend on Kenney to help determine her playing time.
“She’s going to let me know what she can and cannot give to us,” Caldwell said. “But more importantly, I know Jeanne is going to be that fighter. If we need her for two minutes or 20 minutes, she’ll give us that.”
Kenney said Monday she hasn’t practiced full speed since before LSU played Georgia on Feb. 10.
She has spent several recent practices watching from the bench, a protective boot on her foot.
However, team spokesman Bill Martin said Kenney did participate in the Lady Tigers’ abbreviated 45-minute practice session Wednesday at the Gwinnett Center, site of this year’s tournament.
“Our training staff has been great, taping me up and sewing me together,” Kenney said Monday.
LSU freshman guard Danielle Ballard needs four steals to break the LSU single-season record of 93, set in 1999-2000 by former All-American Marie Ferdinand.
Ferdinand set her record in 32 games. Ballard has 90 steals — leading the SEC and ranking second among all freshman nationally — in 29 games.
Ballard already broke the LSU freshman steals record of 86, set by Lady Tigers great Joyce Walker in 1980-81.
Thursday’s game could be the end of Blanche Alverson’s reign — on the basketball court, at least.
The Auburn senior forward was selected as the school’s homecoming queen last fall. Tuesday she was named SEC scholar-athlete of the year, the conference’s highest academic honor, for the second straight season.
The 6-foot-3 Alverson is third on the Auburn team with 12.6 points per game and leads in rebounding with a 5.9 average.
Alverson also sports a 3.6 grade point average in biomedical sciences.
Former gymnast Sandra Smith-Thompson will be LSU’s honoree as part of this year’s SEC Women’s Legends program at the SEC tournament.
A four-time All-American from 1980-83, Smith-Thompson led LSU gymnastics to its only SEC title in 1981. She won SEC vault and floor titles in 1981, floor in 1982 and vault again in 1983.
LSU is 31-32 in the SEC tournament, including an 0-5 record against Auburn. The schools haven’t met in this event since 1994. ... LSU is 2-8 in the tournament final, winning titles in 1991 and 2003. … Thursday and Friday’s games can be seen on FSN. Saturday’s semifinals will be on ESPNU, while Sunday’s championship game will be on ESPN2. ... Games can also be heard on XM 199 and Sirius 126.