The storyline for Sunday’s LSU women’s basketball game at Arkansas is a simple one:
Both teams are in virtual must-win situations regarding their NCAA tournament hopes.
Only one team is going to get what they need.
The Lady Tigers and the Razorbacks both have plusses and minuses on their NCAA résumés.
Both are 15-10 overall with three regular season games remaining.
LSU is tied for third in the SEC at 9-4 with Mississippi State and Texas A&M. That’s good. But the Lady Tigers’ RPI is only No. 62, and that’s not so good.
Arkansas’ No. 42 RPI is a number LSU covets. But the Razorbacks are only tied for seventh in the SEC at 5-8.
Based on what’s at stake, LSU coach Nikki Caldwell expects a battle Sunday in Bud Walton Arena (1 p.m., ESPNU).
“The game will be played at a high level of intensity and with a high level of a sense of urgency,” Caldwell said. “As the season is winding down, you want to be playing some of your best basketball going into tournament play.”
The Lady Tigers can make that argument.
LSU rebounded smartly from an 86-62 loss Feb. 12 at then-No. 1 South Carolina for a 64-52 win at home Thursday over Georgia. The Lady Tigers have won seven of their last 10 with their only losses to ranked teams.
“We want to make sure we carry over the defensive effort that we had the other night against Georgia,” Caldwell said.
“That’s good defense when you are able to hold a team in the 50s. Obviously, our board play will be a key as well. For us on offense against a team like Arkansas, they do a nice job of lending support. Being aggressive off the bounce, making the extra pass and getting second and third opportunity also will be key for us.”
Arkansas has lost two of its last three, but consider the competition. The Razorbacks lost 59-55 at No. 15 Texas A&M and 73-56 at home to No. 2 South Carolina, defeats sandwiched around a smothering 54-36 win at last place Auburn.
“We want to make sure we cover the play action that they run,” Caldwell said. “They move well without the basketball. Our one-on-one defense will be key. They have a balanced attack.”
Kelsey Brooks leads Arkansas with 14.8 points per game, followed by Jessica Jackson with 14.0. Jackson poured in 25 points on LSU in a 57-53 win in Baton Rouge last season.
Calli Berna averages 5.2 assists per game, second in the SEC.
LSU is led by what Caldwell called her “Batman and Robin” — guards Danielle Ballard and Raigyne Moncrief.
Ballard ranks in the top eight in the SEC in points (13.9), rebounds (7.3), steals (3.4) and assists (2.9) per game, her steals stat leading the SEC. She has posted back-to-back double doubles, with 13 points and 12 rebounds against Georgia.
Moncrief had her own double-double against Georgia (16 points, 10 rebounds). She averages 11.5 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per contest (second among SEC guards) and 2.0 steals per game.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.