The practicing, the talking, the installation of new offensive and defensive principles are all done.
Now, it’s time to see what Nikki Caldwell’s LSU Lady Tigers look like for real.
LSU unveils its new act on the road Monday as the No. 21-ranked Lady Tigers open the 2011-12 season at Wichita State.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kan. The game will be carried live on WBRP-FM (107.3) in Baton Rouge and in the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net.
“I feel we are definitely ready,” said Caldwell, who comes to LSU after three seasons as head coach at UCLA. “Over the past week and a half we’ve jelled in some different areas and feel they are more comfortable with what we’re wanting to run.
“We’ve really thrown a lot at them in a short period of time, and they’ve adapted. Their ability to do that will allow us to meet any challenges we may face.”
Multiple lineup combinations and a bench that runs 10-12 players deep will be the hallmark of an LSU team that is switching from a half-court style under former coach Van Chancellor to Caldwell’s up-tempo tactics.
LSU gave a glimpse of the style it will play in a 102-42 exhibition win over Xavier of New Orleans on Nov. 2. The Lady Tigers had eight players that played double-digit minutes, and forced 25 turnovers with their press defense.
Caldwell made a surprising move against Xavier by bringing 5-foot-9 shooting guard Adrienne Webb — the Lady Tigers’ leading scorer last season with 12.8 points per game — off the bench.
The coach said that’s her plan against Wichita State, as she expects to go with the same starting five from the Xavier game: 6-2 senior forwards LaSondra Barrett (12.2 points, 6.3 rebounds per game in 2010-11), Courtney Jones (5.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and Swayze Black (1.9, 2.4), 5-10 senior point guard Destini Hughes (2.2, 1.3) and 5-8 sophomore off-guard Jeanne Kenney (5-2, 2.4).
“I like that group getting us off to a great start,” Caldwell said. “I like that we can bring other players off the bench, not only to sustain what we have, but to elevate what we’ve done.”
Caldwell said she reserves the right to make a change when needed.
“It’s early,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a program where you started with a lineup and it stayed that way. Ever.”
LSU was in need of an early nonconference game when Caldwell and Wichita State coach Jody Adams — like Caldwell a former player at Tennessee — started talking about a game during the offseason “Champions for a Cause” motorcycle tour that Caldwell helps organize.
The prospect of beginning with a road game is appealing in some ways to LSU’s new coach.
“A lot of times the road trip will lessen some of the distractions you have at home,” said Caldwell, who announced Friday that she is expecting her first child in March. “We’ll get to spend time together as a unit, go to dinner, just get a chance to get away from basketball, if you will.”
Wichita State opened Saturday with a 77-49 win over Northwestern State. Reserve Jessica Diamond led the Shockers with 17 points.
After the game, it’ll be a charter flight home for a quick turnaround to prepare for LSU’s home opener Wednesday against No. 10 Georgetown. Tipoff for that game is set for 7 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.