Whenever LSU and Louisiana Tech have met in women’s basketball, there has always been a high level of familiarity.
But given who coaches the programs now, there’s never quite been anything like Wednesday’s night’s 6 p.m. game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
LSU coach Nikki Caldwell and one of her assistants, Tasha Butts, played at Tennessee for legendary coach Pat Summitt. Caldwell played on Summitt’s 1991 NCAA championship team in the Final Four at UNO’s Lakefront Arena.
Tyler Summitt was just a few months old then, sitting in the arena in his father’s arms.
He’s 23 now and is Tech’s head coach, prowling the same sideline that once was the workspace of another legendary women’s coach: Leon Barmore. Pat Summitt’s longtime assistant and former Kentucky head coach Mickie DeMoss serves as Tyler’s associate head coach.
And, oh yes, DeMoss recruited Caldwell and Butts to Tennessee.
“Nikki Caldwell is a close friend,” Tyler Summitt said. “Tasha Butts, their whole staff are very close friends with Mickie, me and our whole staff.
“It will be a special game.”
Special, yes, but the emphasis is on a game that both sides want to and need to win.
“We’ll hug before game, compete extra hard and hug after the game,” Caldwell said.
“I wish I could just come down and hang out with them,” said DeMoss, a native of Tallulah who played at Tech from 1973-77.
“But once that ball gets tossed up we’re both trying to win.”
Though both LSU and Tech have a history as being national power programs, neither is at that level this season.
Tech is 2-2 after scrapping Saturday for a 70-68 win at Alabama A&M.
LSU is 2-4 after a 69-67 loss to Santa Clara in the Hardwood Tournament of Hope in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on Nov. 25.
Hardship would have been more like it. Because of problems between the tournament promoter and local officials, LSU’s next two games in the tournament scheduled for Nov. 26 against UTEP and Thanksgiving day against Kansas State were canceled.
The team flew home Friday.
“We were very diligent in doing our homework in regards to this tournament,” Caldwell said. “We spoke to teams that had been in the same tournament. Stanford and Gonzaga had a great experience. Purdue was there the following year.
“In my 24 years of being affiliated with NCAA basketball, I’ve never heard of anything like this.”
Athletic Director Joe Alleva said LSU is seeking a refund from the tournament promoter for the games not played, but he said he’s not optimistic that will happen.
Meanwhile, the school is trying to reschedule at least one game with either UTEP or Kansas State, but the logistics of doing that once the season begins are highly difficult.
“The only time we have available would be during SEC play during one of our bye weeks,” Caldwell said. “There is talk (with the two schools) about playing at a neutral site or starting a home-and-home series.”
Caldwell didn’t express any anger about what happened with the tournament, but said flatly, “I personally would not recommend attending this event.”
Junior guard Danielle Ballard remains suspended for unspecified violation of team rules, Caldwell said, her status unchanged from the preseason. “We look forward to her return,” Caldwell said without offering any other specifics. … The game will be televised on the SEC Network and can be heard locally on WBRP-FM 107.3 … LSU has won nine straight games in the series to take a 15-14 lead. … After a break for final exams, the Lady Tigers’ next game is Dec. 14 against Southeastern Louisiana. … Tech plays its home opener Sunday against Louisiana-Lafayette, which beat Tech 58-55 in Lafayette on Nov. 22. Tyler Summitt said his mother, who retired in 2012 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, plans to be in attendance.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.