Winners of six straight games, the LSU women welcome 2012 with the start of SEC play against Ole Miss at 2 p.m. on New Year's Day at Tad Smith Coliseum.
The Lady Tigers (9-3) used an 11-0 second-half run and a season-high 20 points from Courtney Jones to erase a 12-point first-deficit and defeat Louisiana Tech 66-55 Thursday night in Ruston. The win completed an undefeated December.
The Rebels (10-3) have won three games in a row since losing to Central Michigan in overtime on Dec. 16. Ole Miss closed non-conference play with a 72-52 blowout of Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday.
Sunday's game will be the fourth straight game at home the Rebels, while LSU is in the midst of a season-long three-game road trip. It's the first time the two teams will meet in an SEC opener since 1986.
LSU coach Nikki Caldwell is excited about her return to SEC play. Caldwell will be appearing in her first SEC game as a head coach, but the first-year Lady Tigers' leader was a part of three SEC regular-season championships and three SEC Tournament championships under head coach Pat Summitt at Tennessee from 2002-08.
"I am excited to go back into environments that I played in and coached in," Caldwell said. "I am excited to go up against some great coaches, but most importantly, I am excited for our team. They have worked extremely hard this offseason for this. We are ready for SEC play. We have definitely prepared through our non-conference schedule to go into hostile environments. We have also prepared against playing some really great players, not only players who can shoot the 3 but score in the post."
Senior forward LaSondra Barrett is LSU's leading scorer and rebounder with 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Barrett has enjoyed her best SEC performances against Ole Miss. In five career games against the Rebels, she has averaged 19.8 points per game.
Fellow forward Courtney Jones has taken her game to a new level during the win streak. Jones' 20 points at Tech was the first 20-point game by an LSU player since she scored 21 at Tennessee to close SEC play last season. Jones is a combined 21-of-32 from the floor with 53 points in her last five games.
As a team, LSU has done a terrific job defensively and on the boards. The Lady Tigers have out-rebounded their last seven opponents and they are 8-1 on the season when winning the rebounding game.
"We have got to do what we do best and that starts with our defense and board play," Caldwell said. "If we don't bring that against Ole Miss, we will struggle. This is a very dominant conference with dominant players. Somebody has to step up and take that challenge."
Ole Miss' Nikki Byrd is averaging a double-double with 14.7 points and league-high 10.7 rebounds per game. Valencia McFarland is second in the SEC in assists with 5.6 per contest.
LSU has won 17 of the last 20 meetings against Ole Miss and swept the season series last season, winning 76-38 on Feb. 6 in Oxford and 78-43 on Jan. 20 in Baton Rouge.
In the last meeting in Oxford on Feb. 6, Webb scored 20 of her game-high 23 points in the first half and she was a stellar 6-of-9 from 3-point range in the lopsided victory. The six 3s were the second most in an SEC game in LSU history, finishing one shy of the record set by Pietra Gay against Auburn on Jan. 25, 1997.
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