Gunter downplays milestone victory

It has truly been a special season so far for coach Sue Gunter's LSU lady Tiger basketball team. <br><br> Ranked No. 2 in the nation for most of the season, the Lady Tigers (15-0) feature probably the most talented squad in school history and one of the deepest benches in America. Hype continues to grow around possibly the most special team of Gunter's 21-year career at LSU as their 15-game winning streak grows larger.

However, last Thursday night, the buzz around the Pete Maravich Assembly Center was not aimed toward the Lady Tigers – but at Gunter herself.


With a dominating 82-39 win over the Kentucky Lady Wildcats, Gunter picked up her 400th win as head coach of the Lady Tigers. In all, the veteran coach has collected 666 career victories, good enough for 3rd on the all-time NCAA list.


"It is really great to have a team with some experience that is able to handle all of the hoopla that went with this game tonight," Gunter said. "I am appreciative with the way they handled everything."


The Lady Tigers had no problem handling the "hoopla." A 43-point victory ensured that Gunter would pick up her monumental win. The ever-humble Gunter, though, downplayed the evening treating the win over coach Bernadette Mattox's team as just another SEC victory.


"My goal coming into tonight was to be 3-0 in the SEC," Gunter said. "And that is what we are."


In her 21st season at the Lady Tigers' helm, Gunter is now 400-209 at LSU and 666-296 overall, ranking her third on the all-time victories list behind Tennessee's Pat Summitt (800) and Texas' Jody Conradt (798). Gunter is the fourth coach to win 400 or more games at an SEC school, joining Summitt, Auburn's Joe Ciampi and Georgia's Andy Landers.


Summitt recently picked up a milestone win of her own, collecting career victory No. 800 as the head coach of the Lady Volunteers. When asked if she has spoken with Summitt, Gunter said 'no,' but said the two do keep in contact.


"No, I haven't talked with her," Gunter said. "But I did drop her note. And I figure I will get one from her."

Gunter was presented with a commemorative game ball by LSU associate athletics director Judy Southard in a post-game ceremony. The game was attended by a majority of members of the LSU Board of Supervisors, LSU chancellor Dr. Mark Emmert and LSU system president Dr. William Jenkins.

"I'm very appreciative to all the players who have passed through the program and contributed to it," Gunter said. "I'm most appreciative to the Board of Supervisors and the administration for sharing in this moment."


And the LSU Board of Supervisors were not the only people on hand to witness Gunter's milestone. An appreciative crowd of 2,229 turned out to cheer on Gunter and her team.


"A nice thing for me to see tonight was 2,000-plus people here for a Thursday night game. I mean, that is terrific," Gunter said. "Those are the kinds of things we have been working hard to see around here. Maybe I just had to stay around long enough to see that happen."


Gunter, who spent 12 season at Stephen F. Austin before coming to LSU, has made made 12 NCAA Tournament appearances in her 21 years in Baton Rouge. Of those 12 trips to the Big Dance, Gunter led the Lady Tigers to three Sweet 16 berths and advanced to the Elite 8 twice.


"I have been really blessed to have a good career and some good teams and some good players to help me keep my job over a long period of time," Gunter said. "That is what the program is really all about. Really and truly, it is the players."


Gunter is the second basketball coach at LSU to win 400 games, joining former men's coach Dale Brown, who was 448-301 in 25 years from 1972 through 1997.


"It is good for the program and personally I am proud of it," Gunter said. "But there is still a lot of work to be done. Those are nice things for our program and for me, I mean I am not trying to downplay it. But those things are just not a big priority for me."


They are, however, for Gunter's players.


"This was exciting for everybody," LSU junior guard Doneeka Hodges said. "I mean coach Gunter is a good coach and she is getting what she deserves."


Although the win was fun for the entire team, which posed with Gunter for several pictures following the game, the message the veteran coach sent about still having work to be done rings loud and clear to the players.


"It is exciting," senior forward DeTrina White said. "I am happy, but most of all I am excited for coach Gunter and for her to get her 400th victory here at LSU. Hopefully, though, there will be more to come."


In breaking the previous best start to a season of 14-0 in 1996-97, the Lady Tigers also tied a school record for consecutive victories, which included a 13-0 start in 1996-97 and the final game of the 1995-96 season, a victory over Arkansas in the third-place game of the now-defunct NWIT.

The record for consecutive wins for an LSU basketball team, men or women, is 25 by the 1980-81 men's team that reached the NCAA Final Four in Philadelphia.

LSU (No. 2 AP, No. 3 ESPN/USA Today) is also 3-0 in the SEC for the first time since 1998-99 and just the third time in school history.

- Todd Politz, of LSU Sports Information, contributed to this report

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