Five LSU players will be making their first career NCAA Tournament starts, but the Lady Tigers’ youth proved to be veteran on the team’s late winning surge that continued a streak of 11 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
“I think it’s just human nature to have jitters at this point in the opening round of the NCAA tournament,” LSU head coach Van Chancellor said. “These players have been there and playing at home is really going to help us. We may start slow, but I think we’ll be fine after two or three minutes. A lot of things build up to start a game, but after a few minutes you just start to play basketball and I think you overcome that.”
LSU (18-10) brings in a solid NCAA Tournament resume that featured one of the country’s toughest schedules. The Lady Tigers put together a remarkable six-game winning streak in Southeastern Conference play to earn a share of second place in the regular season standings with a 10-4 mark. LSU enters tournament play as winners in six of its last seven games.
The Lady Tigers have played 14 games against teams who reached the “Big Dance.” LSU puts a streak of 11 straight NCAA Tournament first round wins on the line as well as 11 consecutive tournament victories on its home floor, something Chancellor hopes plays to the Lady Tigers’ advantage.
“I’m saying we still have our friendly crowd, but the biggest thing is that our players get to do what they normally do and that’s very big,” he said. “It’s not going to score a point, but I’m not somewhere today in a motel room looking for something to do. That’s a great advantage to the coach.”
LSU is led by junior guard Allison Hightower, a first-team All-SEC selection by the media and league’s coaches and a member of the State Farm Coaches Region III All-America Team. Hightower, who was a member of two Final Four teams, will be playing in her 11th career NCAA Tournament game.
Hightower ranks sixth in the SEC in points per game with 14.3 and she leads LSU in the four major categories of points, assists, blocks and steals – something no player in school history has ever done in a single season.
Two of the nation’s elite defenses clash in the first game. Green Bay (29-3) brings in the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense, allowing only 50.2 points per game. LSU surrenders 53.0 points per game which registers as the sixth-best mark nationally and first in the SEC.
The Phoenix own the nation’s second-longest winning streak having won its last 21 contests to remain perfect in 2009. Green Bay last lost on Dec. 29, ran through the Horizon League with an unblemished 18-0 record and was one of just four teams in the nation to go unbeaten in league play.
“They’re really good at shooting the basketball,” Chancellor said. “This is a team that has a great work ethic and plays hard. Any team that can lead the country in defense and that has won 21-straight games has my attention.”
LSU and Green Bay are meeting for the first time since the two teams met in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament in Eugene, Ore. Then-No. 1 seed LSU defeated the then-eighth-seeded Phoenix, 80-69, en route to a regional final appearance that season.
Game 2 action
No. 3 seed Louisville (29-4) faces No. 14 seed Liberty (24-8) in Sunday’s second game approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 1. The Cardinals, an at-large selection from the Big East Conference, are making their fifth consecutive tournament appearance. They feature National Player of the Year candidate Angel McCoughtry.
Liberty claimed the Big South Conference championship to advance to the program’s 12th tournament appearance. The Flames’ Megan Frazee was the 2008-09 Big South Player of the Year, while her sister, Moriah, was a member of the Big South All-Tournament team.
Tickets still available
All-session ticket books, which include both first round games and the second round contest, are available for $30 for adults and $19 for youth. Single-session ticket books include admission to either both first round games or the second round contest. Single-session tickets are $16 for adult and $11 for youth.
The Maravich Center ticket office opens at 4:30 p.m. or tickets may be purchased on line at www.LSUtix.net. Tuesday’s second round game tips off at 8:30 p.m.