Top five matchup awaits

LSU's third-ranked women's basketball team will face its toughest conference test of the year on Thursday as the Lady Tigers travel to Knoxville to play fifth-ranked Tennessee.

A national television audience along with a crowd of over 20,000 will be watching as the Lady Tigers look to win in Knoxville for the first time in the history of the program. LSU is 0-16 all-time in Knoxville, which includes an 85-62 setback in its last visit to Rocky Top in 2004.

The contest carries a 6 p.m. CST start time and can be seen on ESPN2. The game will also be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network (98.1 FM in Baton Rouge) as well as in the GeauxZone, which is powered by USAgencies, on

LSU, currently in first place in the Southeastern Conference with an 8-0 league record, brings a 20-1 overall mark into the game. The only blemish on LSU's record is a 51-48 setback to Connecticut back on Jan. 16. The Lady Vols, winners of three straight since a 66-63 loss to Kentucky, stands at 21-2 overall and in second place in conference action with a 7-1 mark.

LSU has won a school-record 22 consecutive regular season SEC games, a streak that includes all eight games this year and 14 straight last season. The last SEC team to beat the Lady Tigers was Tennessee, who posted a 67-65 win in the championship game of last year's SEC Tournament.

"It's another road game, except we'll be in Knoxville in front of 20-plus thousand going against one of the best teams in the country," LSU head coach Pokey Chatman said as the team departed Baton Rouge on Wednesday afternoon. "It's going to be a battle. Tennessee's playing well and we've been playing well as of late. This game is going to boil down to 40 minutes of execution."

The Lady Tigers go into Thursday's contest having won four of their last six games by at least 20 points, including an 88-57 thrashing of defending national champion Baylor a week ago. Tennessee appears to be back on track after losing consecutive games against Duke and Kentucky two weeks ago.

Thursday's matchup will boast some of the nation's top players, headlined by LSU's Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles along with Tennessee's Candace Parker and Shanna Zolman.

Augustus, the reigning National Player of the Year in women's college basketball, leads the SEC in scoring with a 20.8 average. Augustus has scored in double-figures in 83 straight games and she's gone for 20 or more points 61 times during her 126-game career.

Fowles, who was named the SEC Player of the Week for a conference record fourth time on Monday, is first in the league rebounding (11.5 per game) and fourth in scoring (17.5 per game). Fowles leads the SEC with 14 double-doubles to her credit this year.

Parker, the nation's top freshman, leads the Lady Vols in both scoring (15.3 per game) and rebounds (7.7 per game). She's also averaging 2.0 blocked shots per contest, while Zolman is averaging 14.9 points per game.

Against Tennessee, Fowles will have her biggest test of the season as the Lady Vols featuring a frontline that includes 6-foot-3 Parker, 6-4 Nick Anosike and 6-5 Tye'sha Fluker.

"I think for the last 15 years, I've looked at Tennessee and they've been big, they've been physical, they've been talented," Chatman said. "You come to expect that, and that's a compliment to their program and what they've accomplished. But you have to be able to counter what they have. The main thing is to focus on what we've been doing well and try to do it better and just try to neutralize some of their players. It's just not one of those things where you can stop a Tennessee team. You have to pick your spots in terms of your base defense and creating difficult situations for them."

As far as playing in front of over 20,000 fans, Chatman said she's excited about the opportunity.

"It's a great environment for women's basketball," Chatman said. "It's exciting, and I think it's what some of these players sign up for in terms of the level of competition and the excitement surrounding women's basketball. It has to be a plus for the home team, but in terms of your execution, it will go a long way in how much the crowd is on their feet or sitting down. But it's going to be a great environment for women's basketball."

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