LSU women face next test vs. USC

Lady Tigers have rattled off nine straight wins on the way to a 3-0 SEC start.

The SEC's top two defenses clash at 7 p.m. Thursday as the LSU women puts its nine-game winning streak on the line against 24th-ranked South Carolina at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The Lady Tigers (12-3, 3-0 SEC) breezed through their December slate and opened SEC play with three straight wins, including an 84-40 blowout of Alabama on Sunday. LSU hasn't lost in 45 days since a 77-68 decision at Ohio State on Nov. 27.

South Carolina (14-2, 3-0) owns an eight-game win streak and is ranked for the first time since closing out the 2002-03 season at No. 16. The Lady Gamecocks rolled through Alabama and Vanderbilt before rallying past Florida 49-44 on Sunday in Gainesville.

Carolina hasn't lost since a 55-53 defeat at North Carolina State on Dec. 4. The other loss occurred to No. 11 Penn State on Nov. 20.

"Dawn (Staley) and I go way back and I have a lot of respect for her when she was a player and now as a coach," LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. "Dawn has a competitive spirit about her and she has won at every level. She now has her team on the map at South Carolina because she is a winner. Their team has taken on her personality."

Statistically, defensively no one is better in the SEC. South Carolina is surrendering 45.2 points per game, which ranks second in the nation. LSU is allowing 46.5 points per contest, which ranks third nationally. The Lady Tigers are also second in the nation in field goal percentage defense at 29.9%.

"There are a lot of similarities between these two teams," Caldwell said. "Both teams pride themselves on their defensive pressure and intensity. Both teams will obviously look to run the basketball. For us, we definitely have to take care of the basketball because they will turn you over. The turnovers typically lead to scores for them."

LSU senior LaSondra Barrett has produced three straight double-figure games and she is averaging 14 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in SEC play. She has scored 1,299 points in her career and is looking to become the 18th player in school history to surpass 1,300 points.

The Lady Tigers have dominated the all-time series with South Carolina 21-4.

The two teams split in last year's series. SC rallied from a double-digit deficit to defeat LSU, 63-61 in Columbia while the Lady Tigers overcame a once 22-5 deficit to beat the Gamecocks, 54-51 in overtime in Baton Rouge.

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