It isn’t often LSU goes on the road to play an in-state school, and coach Kim Mulkey realizes it makes winning doubly tough.
To get her team used to the travails of any road game, Mulkey is having her team arrive in Lafayette the day before the Tigers take on UL at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Cajundome.
“When you play in-state schools, they’re coming after you,” Mulkey said in Wednesday’s news conference.
“LSU is the flagship university. Even when we were so good at Tech, you wanted to beat LSU. It doesn’t matter if you are a terrible team or not. You have LSU across your shirt. People play a little bit harder. It means a little more to beat you. When you don’t have a lot of Louisiana kids on your roster, you have to realize how hard it is to beat in-state schools.”
To that point, Mulkey is taking no chances in the season’s first road trip. A 45-minute drive down I-10 still rates standard road game treatment. LSU has won all 25 previous meetings, five of them in Lafayette.
“We’re ready to teach them how we do things on the road, how we eat, sleep, watch film, take up phones at night,” Mulkey said. “It’s all new to them. We don’t know what to expect.
“We’re going to continue to do that. I’ll bet in 21 years I could count on one hand the times I went day of (the game). That doesn’t flow with me. You don’t feel like you’re in sync.”
UL is a much tougher task than the last in-state foe, Nicholls State. The Cajuns have three starters back from the team that went 16-8 and won the Sun Belt regular-season title. Only a loss in the Sun Belt tournament final to Troy kept them out of the NCAA tournament. UL lost both games in the WNIT.
One of the returnees is post player Ty’Reona Doucet, the reigning Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year who averages 11 points and four rebounds. Guard Brandi Williams, who has 81 career starts, is averaging 18 points per game and has connected on six of 10 3-point tries. Point guard Destiny Rice averages 10 points and five assists.
UL has beaten Texas A&M-Kingsville (84-58) and Rice (73-69). The Cajuns trailed Rice by 12 entering the fourth quarter but rallied for the victory, hitting 10 of 11 shots and scoring 32 points.
“They play very intense,” Mulkey said. “We’ll see some sagging man to man, some 1-2-1-1 full court pressure back to a sagging man or 2-3 zone, run and jump full court. They mix it up on you.”
Mulkey and her players have put Sunday’s 88-74 loss to Florida Gulf Coast University on Sunday behind them. LSU led for less than four minutes and trailed by 18 points in a game Mulkey chalked up as a difficult matchup of playing styles and experience.
Khayla Pointer had 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists but the Tigers couldn’t take advantage on the offensive end with a chance to cut into a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
“We flushed that game down the toilet and trying to move on,” LSU guard Jailin Cherry said. “We did take a couple of things away from that game defensively.”
“There’s going to be a lot of adversity playing an in-state school. They’re going to come out and give us their best shot.”