Lady Tigers open SEC Tournament

Alltel Arena is a special place for the LSU Lady Tiger basketball program.

Four seasons ago, the Lady Tigers capped a magical run through the SEC Tournament defeating the Tennessee Lady Volunteers 78-62 to win the program's first tourney title since Pokey Chatman led LSU to the 1991 title.

 

What was unique about the Lady Tigers 2003 tournament crown, LSU defeated the only three teams – Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Tennessee – that beat them during the regular season.

 

In her last full season as head coach, Sue Gunter climbed to the top of the ladder and clipped the final strands of the nets in North Little Rock. She turned to the crowd of LSU fans gathered, held up the net and grinned a satisfying smile.

 

The Lady Tigers return to one of their late coaches most memorable triumphs this weekend as LSU enters the 2006 SEC Tournament as two-time champions of the league and the tournament's No. 1 seed.

 

"It will be sweet going back there," Chatman said. "I just happened to be recruiting there not long ago and just happened to drive by there. I had a hotel downtown and the airport was only 15 minutes away, but I wanted to just take a peek around. There are some nice memories there. They do a nice job of carrying that tournament there and if we take care of business it (winning) will be possible again."

 

The Lady Tigers open tournament play against the winner of Arkansas and Ole Miss at noon on Friday. LSU handled the Lady Backs 93-59 and 64-42 in the team's two previous meetings this season, but Arkansas will enjoy a bit of a home court advantage. The Lady Tigers took care of Ole Miss 78-63 in the team's only meeting of the regular season.

 

"Perspective is the most important thing at this level," Chatman said. "We know we have an SEC opponent to play at noon on Friday and that reels you back in real quickly."

 

LSU (25-2) closed out the regular season with a 62-48 win over Mississippi State on Sunday and a 13-1 overall mark in SEC play. While LSU all but rolled to the program's second straight league crown, Chatman noted noticeable room for improvement heading into the postseason.

 

"We need to practice and clean up some things that we have struggled with the last few games, in terms of how we are playing," Chatman said. "I have been happy with the end result of the games lately and what it means for the team for this particular program. But it gets lost what needs to be done inside the lines to insure that we get to play the maximum amount of games possible."

 

Seniors Seimone Augustus, Scholanda Hoston and Florence Williams enjoyed Senior Day festivities on Sunday and were honored in a special ceremony. However, they understand it is back to work now.

 

"You just enjoy the moment," Augustus said. "The team understands that, but the fans might hold on to it for another week until the SEC Tournament starts. Our focus is where it needs to be and once practice starts, everything about senior day will be gone."

 

LSU sits atop the bracket as the tournament's No. 1 seed. Following the Lady Tigers in order is Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State.

 

"Our mental focus is most important," Chatman said. "That applies to everything. There is a 20-second lull from the huddle during a timeout to the floor. We need to make sure we carry instruction from the huddle to the floor."

 

A year ago, Tennessee upset No. 1 LSU 67-65 at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, South Carolina.


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