The LSU Lady Tigers have a new mantra.
It couldn’t come at a better time.
“‘Win the day,’ ” junior guard Anne Pedersen said. “It doesn’t have to have anything to do with basketball. Every day is a new opportunity. Maybe we’re not where we want to be, but we can get closer.”
LSU will try to win the day Thursday against Vanderbilt, which visits the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for an 8 p.m. contest on the SEC Network.
The Lady Tigers need to win this one, because the future is perilous indeed.
After Thursday’s game, the next four contests for LSU (7-7, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) are against ranked teams: at No. 9 Texas A&M on Sunday, Jan. 15 at No. 14 Mississippi State, at home Jan. 18 against No. 10 Kentucky and Jan. 22 at No. 7 Tennessee.
Add the Lady Tigers’ 75-51 home loss Sunday to No. 1 South Carolina and that’s five ranked opponents in six games. That’s the toughest stretch since LSU faced six straight ranked teams from the last three games of the 2002-03 regular season through their three-game run to the SEC tournament title that season.
“This group has to stay in the moment,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “(Thursday) night’s game is the biggest game on the schedule. We have to play like it’s the last game on the schedule. There’s got to be a different sense of urgency in how we play and execute the game plan.”
Both teams are in similar situations, trying to rebuild after the loss of some key seniors.
LSU is still trying to fit together the right pieces after losing three senior starters: All-SEC forward Theresa Plaisance, center Shanece McKinney and point guard Jeanne Kenney.
Vandy is trying to fill the void left by a pair of All-SEC guards — Christina Foggie and Jasmine Lister — the Commodores’ top two scorers from 2013-14.
Despite the absence of last year’s stars, Caldwell said she sees the same Vanderbilt team she’s seen the previous 12 seasons under Melanie Balcomb.
“Vandy is a very deliberate and precise offensive team,” Caldwell said. “They do a great job sharing the basketball and run the play action that’s called. We don’t want to get them into a comfortable rhythm. We want to disrupt their ball-handlers and the timing of their offense.”
The Commodores have three players scoring in double figures: 6-foot junior forward Heather Bowe (10.7 points, 4.0 rebounds per game), 6-3 freshman forward Khaleann Caron-Goudreau (10.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg) and 5-9 freshman guard Rebekah Dahlman (10.1, 4.4).
The Lady Tigers will counter with a lineup led by 5-9 senior guard DaShawn Harden, who averages 12.0 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. Raigyne Moncrief, a 5-10 sophomore guard, is second with 10.3 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game.
LSU continues to run the point guard spot by committee, with Harden, Moncrief and Rina Hill, a 5-9 sophomore, handling the chores depending on the situation.
“When we get the ball off the glass it’s the person who outlets the ball who runs the action,” Caldwell explained. “Some times we run Ray (Moncrief) in the high ball screen action and sometimes Rina.”
Vandy (8-6, 0-2 SEC) is 0-2 to start SEC play for the first time since Balcomb’s first season in 2002-03. The Commodores, who lost 75-61 at Texas A&M and 57-49 to Tennessee, have also lost five straight at LSU.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.