Looking for some more history

LSU women head to Nashville with championship goals after a strong finish to the regular season.

LSU coach Nikki Caldwell remembers it all too well.

As a freshman playing under Pat Summitt at Tennessee, Caldwell sat and watched LSU beat the Lady Volunteers 80-75 in the 1991 SEC Tournament Championship Game.

Twelve years later, Caldwell, this time as an assistant coach, was present for the LSU women's second SEC championship in its history when they beat Tennessee 78-62 in 2003.

Caldwell: 'It's in this program to win an SEC championship.'

"It's great to now be on this side of the roster," Caldwell said. "It's in this program to win an SEC championship. It's in us, we have proven it. We've been able to beat some of the best teams in the country."

Now Caldwell – donning purple-and-gold – has the chance to potentially witness LSU's third SEC championship for the program.

The Lady Tigers, who have a first-round bye in the tournament, are the 4th seed and await the winner of No. 12 Ole Miss vs. No. 5 Arkansas matchup Thursday night.

LSU ended the regular season winning six of its last seven games, including big victories over Kentucky and Vanderbilt. A key cog in the Lady Tigers' success has been senior LaSondra Barrett.

It was announced Wednesday that Barrett was named to the All-SEC first team by the coaches. The senior from Jackson, Miss., leads LSU with 12.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. However, her contributions stretch far past the box score. Barrett, a natural forward, has picked up occasional point-guard duties this season after injuries.

"LaSondra has already proved herself each year," senior forward Courtney Jones said. "She's a wonderful player and she works hard. ‘Boogie' can fill any position. She's big enough to become a guard. Nobody can really guard her with her handles."

Since starting point guard Destini Hughes went down with a knee injury on Jan. 19, Barrett has averaged 13.3 points and 8 rebounds per game. While Jeanne Kenney and Bianca Lutley are more natural guards, Barrett has offered a different style when they have been ineffective.

Barrett says it was difficult at first because she was out of her comfort zone, but that it has benefited her in the long-run.

"I least expected to play point guard, but (Caldwell) always talked about sacrifice and doing what the team needs," Barrett said. "I tried to watch a lot of film and tried to get more reps in at practice at that point guard position."

Over the last five games Kenney and Lutley have struggled. Kenney is averaging 3.8 turnovers per game, including 7 against Auburn. Lutley, on the other hand, has shot just 6-for-23 (26%) from the field over that stretch.

"I've challenged Jeanne Kenney and Bianca Lutley because we cannot run LaSondra Barrett at the point guard for 75% of her minutes," Caldwell said.

Still, Barrett and the other seniors on the team are champing at the bit as tournament play is set to kick off.

Courtney Jones: 'Everybody has to be ready to give 100%.'

Jones, who is third on team averaging 8.6 points per game, said that LSU has a lot to prove coming into the SEC tournament and that no matter who they play, they will be familiar with their opponent.

"We can't have any letdowns," Jones said. "Everybody has to be ready to give 100%. We have to be focused mentally and physically. The teams that we played twice will always be a tougher match up because it's tough to beat a team three times in a year."

Regardless of the Lady Tigers' performance in the SEC tournament, they more than likely have worked their way into the NCAA tournament. With the first and second rounds of play held at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, the Lady Tigers would like nothing more than to play at home.

LSU has fared well at home this season, going 12-3 (6-2 in the SEC) with tremendous support from the Tiger faithful. The Lady Tigers finished in the top 20 in the NCAA in home attendance and third in the SEC. Attendance increased to an average of 4,458 this season.

"Our fan base is amazing," Caldwell said. "They are screaming and high fiving our team. You can feel that energy coming into our play. This is a city that has really supported women's basketball. It's definitely an honor to be a part of the NCAA tournament and hosting."

LSU plays the winner of Ole Miss-Arkansas Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Nashville. The SEC championship game is at 5 p.m. Sunday.

LaSondra Barrett earns All-SEC nod

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