The difference between LSU and Tulane early in the new women’s basketball season can be summed up in a single word:
LSU, which has struggled to a 2-1 start, is missing four starters from last year’s NCAA tournament Sweet 16 squad, a number that consists of three departed seniors and suspended junior guard Danielle Ballard.
Tulane, which has cruised to victory in its first two games, returns all of its starters from 2013-14, having lost only one reserve player to graduation.
“Tulane is a very complete basketball team when you look at their starters and their punch coming off the bench,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “They’ve played together and are very familiar with one another.”
Veteran Tulane coach Lisa Stockton can relate to the spot in which Caldwell finds herself.
“They have a lot of talent but a lot of new players,” Stockton said. “They don’t have Ballard, they have different players at the point guard spot. For them, it’s a learning curve.”
Trouble with the curve has plagued LSU so far.
The Lady Tigers lost their season opener 70-54 to UALR, pulled away from Sam Houston State for a 71-45 win then struggled mightily on offense Monday night before salvaging a 52-44 overtime victory against Jackson State.
Afterward, Caldwell was so disappointed she declared Jackson State winner despite the numbers on the scoreboard.
Now they face Tulane, which visits the Pete Maravich Assembly Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The game will be shown online on SEC Network+ and can be heard in Baton Rouge on 107.3 FM (LSU) and 88.3 FM (Tulane) in New Orleans.
The Green Wave will likely be LSU’s toughest opponent so far. So after committing 27 turnovers in 45 minutes of game time, Caldwell knows a must-have for her team to win:
“They’re a team that can disrupt you offensively,” she said. “Ball sureness is going to be key.”
For all its experience, Tulane has been led in scoring so far this season by Kolby Morgan, a 5-foot-8 freshman guard from John Curtis averaging 14 points per contest. Danielle Blagg, a 5-11 senior guard, is next with 12 points per game, followed by 5-9 junior forward Tierra Jones (11.5 ppg).
“She’s playing a big role for us on a veteran team,” said Stockton, who is beginning her 20th season at Tulane.
“There’s a deep bench for us, too.”
LSU has employed all 11 of its available players this season, led by 5-10 sophomore guard Raigyne Moncrief with team highs of 12.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
Ann Jones, a 6-3 junior transfer from Memphis, led the way Monday night with 12 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, nine of them on the offensive end. Her play helped LSU overcome season low 32.4 percent shooting and record 19 second-chance points to J-State’s 10.
“It was huge for us to have a presence inside with Ann and Akilah (Bethel),” Caldwell said, referring to her 6-0 junior transfer forward from West Virginia. “They did a nice job establishing themselves inside and on the glass.”