"The regular season is over, period," said Gunter. "Now we have to go back and regroup and ready for the second season."
LSU's second season begins Friday when they open play in the 2003 SEC Women's Tournament at ALLTEL Arena in Little Rock, Ark. The Lady Tigers (24-3, 11-3 in SEC) received an opening round bye in the tournament after being tabbed the No. 2 seed in the weekend tournament. The Tennessee Lady Volunteers wrapped up the SEC's No. 1 berth.
One of those teams, Arkansas, owns a win over LSU already this season. The Lady Razorbacks defeated Gunter's team 82-72 in Fayetteville on Jan. 19.
Knowing a lost will send them home is firmly cemented into the minds of Gunter's team.
"From here on out you go out and play each game like it is your last," LSU senior Ke-Ke Tardy said. "We are coming down a stretch here where games can make or break your season. We can only focus on the next game and let the chips fall where they may."
Tardy knows a run in the SEC Tournament will help when it comes down to the NCAA Tournament selection committee to begin assigning national seeds. The Lady Tigers, once believed to be a lock for a No. 1 seed, may have endangered its top-seeding with Sunday's 72-60 loss in Nashville.
"We need to have to try and have a good showing in the SEC Tournament," Tardy said. "Then we will see where the NCAA Tournament selection people put us."
Gunter knows all about postseason play and its importance.
"You look for a higher seeding and better placement," she said. "That makes it (SEC Tournament) very important."
The Lady Tigers reached SEC Tournament finals a year ago, falling to Vanderbilt 63-48. LSU recorded one of its biggest wins in school history in the semifinals with a win over then-No. 3 Tennessee, 81-80.
During Gunter's 21 years as LSU head coach, the Lady Tigers have reached the finals of the SEC Tournament only three times, winning once. No. 12 LSU topped then-No. 4 Tennessee, 80-75, in the 1991 tournament in Albany, Ga.
Vanderbilt has knocked LSU out of the league's tournament each of the last three years. The way the bracket is set up for the 2003 tournament, Vanderbilt could meet the Lady Tigers in the semifinals. A showdown between LSU and Tennessee would only take place in the finals.
2003 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament
March 6 - 9 * Alltel Arena * North Little Rock, Ark.
March 6 (Thursday)
Game 2 - #7 Arkansas vs. #10 Alabama [SEC-TV] 2:30 p.m.
Game 3 - #5 S. Carolina vs. #12 Ole Miss [SEC-TV] 6 p.m.
Game 4 - #6 Vanderbilt vs. #11 Florida [SEC-TV] 8:30 p.m.
Friday, March 7
Game 5 - #1 Tennessee vs. Game 1 winner [SEC-TV] Noon
Game 6 - #2 LSU vs. Game 2 winner [SEC-TV] 2:30 p.m.
Game 7 - #4 Miss. State vs. Game 3 winner [SEC-TV] 6 p.m.
Game 8 - #3 Georgia vs. Game 4 winner [SEC-TV] 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 8
Game 9 - Game 5 winner vs. Game 7 winner [SEC-TV] 6 p.m.
Game 10 - Game 6 winner vs. Game 8 winner [SEC-TV] 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 9
Game 11 - Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner [ESPN2] 3 p.m.
All Times Central. [ ] - TV Game. SEC-TV - Fox Sports Net South, Fox Sports Net Southwest, Sunshine Network.