A crucial three-game homestand for the LSU women begins at 6 p.m. Thursday against the Florida Gators as the Lady Tigers seek to snap a four-game SEC losing streak and re-establish their tough defensive play at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
LSU (14-7, 4-4 SEC) sits in a tie with Vanderbilt for sixth place in the SEC standings with eight games remaining, while Florida (13-8, 3-5) is right behind the Lady Tigers. The league's top four finishers earn a bye in the first round of the SEC Tournament, which begins March 1 in Nashville.
This is the second meeting between LSU and Florida this season. The Lady Tigers will try to avenge a 62-58 loss to the Gators on Jan. 15 in Gainesville when Florida built a 15-point lead with less than 8 minutes to play, but the Lady Tigers nearly rallied for the win behind the play of Courtney Jones.
Florida buried 10 3-pointers in the first meeting, but LSU limited the scoring of Jennifer George, one of the SEC's top players. George finished with only 6 points and 2 rebounds. She enters Thursday's game as the Gators' leader in points (13.3 ppg) and rebounds (9.7 ppg).
"Florida has a very stingy defensive team and they do not allow you to get a lot of easy looks," LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. "They are very aggressive in their defensive play and will pressure you. At the end of the day, ball reversal and ball security is always crucial. If we can allow ourselves to have success early, I do feel it will filter throughout the team."
The Lady Tigers have come alive offensively in the past two games. After four consecutive games of scoring in the 50-point range, LSU has put up two straight games of 70 points or better with both of those contests coming on the road. Three Lady Tigers managed double-figures in a 81-72 loss at Vanderbilt on Sunday, but Caldwell said the team needs to regain its defensive identity.
"We started out the season a very defensive-minded team and kept opponents under 50 points," Caldwell said. "We need to go back to being a defensive-minded team and find our identity. I feel very confident that we can get back to being a dominant defensive unit, which will also get our transition game going."
In SEC contests, LaSondra Barrett ranks in the top eight in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 12.5 points and 8.4 boards per contest in LSU's eight SEC games. She is tied for third in the league in rebounding. Junior guard Bianca Lutley has raised her scoring average significantly in the past two games with 34 combined points on 12-of-23 shooting.
LSU has won eight consecutive games over Florida in the Maravich Center. The last time the Gators escaped Baton Rouge with a win was on Jan. 21, 1996.
Following Thursday's game, LSU welcomes No. 5-ranked Kentucky to the PMAC for a 2 p.m. start on Sunday.
LSU women head home looking to end skid
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