Among the challenges the first two games of the season presented to her team, LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Caldwell liked the NCAA tournament-type feel it gave the Lady Tigers in having to play Monday at Wichita State and speed home Wednesday to play No. 14-ranked Georgetown.
Two tests, two wins. But if Caldwell liked that, she’s really looking forward to the next four days, as her No. 20 Lady Tigers play three opponents starting with Saturday’s game at Tulane.
After that, LSU returns to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for games Monday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Tuesday against Northwestern.
“They’re showing early signs that they can handle success,” LSU’s first-year coach said. “But you have to worry about how after a big win against Georgetown they can handle what they have to do against Tulane.
“We’ve got great leadership in our senior class and our young people do an exceptional job of following them.”
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Tulane’s Fogelman Arena between the Lady Tigers and the Green Wave (both 2-0). The game will be broadcast on WBRP-FM 107.3 in Baton Rouge and on a subscription basis in the Geaux Zone on www.LSUSports.net.
LSU won 64-56 at Wichita on Monday then returned home to survive a 51-40 slugfest against Georgetown.
Both teams struggled through a defensive-dominated encounter that featured a combined 49 turnovers, 26 by LSU, and a combined 5 of 35 shooting from behind the 3-point line.
The Lady Tigers shot just 34.0 percent from the floor after shooting a smoking 61.5 percent at Wichita.
But the defense that became such a staple of the LSU program in seasons past was in full force against the Hoyas.
The 40 points by Georgetown was the fewest ever allowed by the Lady Tigers against a top 15-ranked opponent. It was also the highest-ranked non-conference opponent to fall to LSU at the PMAC since the Lady Tigers beat No. 5 Ohio State on Dec. 10, 2006.
“We knew we could beat them,” said senior forward LaSondra Barrett, who led LSU with 11 points and eight rebounds. “That’s not being arrogant. ? If we just cut down on the turnovers and made a couple of shots, it would have been an easier game for us.”
Despite her team’s first win over a ranked team, Caldwell sees room for growth.
“For this team it’s about daily improvement,” she said. “Even though the turnovers aren’t an indicator of it, we played better (against Georgetown) collectively than we played Monday night.
“I’m glad that we are tested early so they can see where we stack up and also see where we can improve.”
Despite the loss at home to Tulane last season, LSU holds a commanding 27-4 lead in the series with the Green Wave and has won 11 straight road games against in-state opponents dating to 2002.
Tulane coach Lisa Stockton knows what her team is getting in LSU.
“They have great size and a lot of experience,” she said. “I’ve known Nikki Caldwell many years, and I know she’ll do a great job.
“I’m more concerned about us. We’ve got to play better than we’ve played.”
Barrett leads LSU with 13.5 points per game along with 6.0 rebounds and poured in 22 points two seasons ago at Tulane in a 73-65 win. Sophomore guard Jeanne Kenney averages 9.0 points per game, while senior forward Courtney Jones leads the squad with 7.0 rebounds per contest.
Junior guard Olivia Grayson leads Tulane with 14.0 points per game, followed by freshman forwards Tiffany Dale and Danielle Blagg with 13.0 and 10.0 points per game each. Senior Brett Benzio paces Tulane with 10.5 rebounds per game.