LSU (16-10, 7-6) goes into this game wanting vindication. The lady Tigers were expected to compete for the SEC title this season, and their record has been less than stellar. LSU does not lose at home much. The only unranked team to beat them at home this season is Tulane, but they have also lost to Texas A&M and Tennessee in Baton Rouge as well.
UK is now tied with Texas A&M for second place, however, the Wildcats hold the tiebreakers over the Aggies. The math is simple -- win and we win it all. This game is only one of three that UK must win. Today against LSU will be one of the two toughest environments that Kentucky will play in all season. Baton Rouge is a minefield for most teams, and Kentucky is no exception. Their season has been derailed in Louisiana more than once, and Matthew Mitchell knows it better than anyone:
"This is a very important game for us Sunday in Baton Rouge. LSU has an outstanding team and we will have to prepare well to beat them. We had a tough game with them here in Lexington. The final margin was not indicative of how difficult the game was. We will have our hands full, another really tough road test for us and we will have to respond to get a victory.
They (LSU) are very, very talented and they have some explosive scorers at really three positions with Theresa Plaisance, and two of their guards, (Adrienne Webb) and (Danielle Ballard) are really, really just difficult players to deal with. They are three of the better offensive players in the league. They can put it on the floor and so I thought the first game they did a great job in trying to find some weak links in us and we had some struggles that day, so it will be imperative that we have great defensive preparation.
Another thing is they are really battling for the NCAA Tournament and trying to get that berth. I know that’s important for them with them hosting there in Baton Rouge. I just think it’s going to be a real motivated group and a very talented group so it will be a tough game for us."
This is a "take care of business" type of game. We don’t need a battle, we don’t need a blowout. Just get in to Baton Rouge, and get out with the win. Nikki Caldwell is going to have LSU pumped and ready to defend their house. The Hoops squad handled LSU 73-60 at Memorial earlier in the year, but this is not Memorial.
This game could be significant in the UK record books as Mitchell, who has 137 wins in just six seasons as the head coach of the Wildcats, needs just one more to tie Terry Hall’s record of 138 wins set from 1980-87. His winning percentage of 69.9 percent (137-59) already ranks first. Mitchell was just the third coach in UK Hoops history to record 100 wins and he earned that milestone in just 151 games, becoming the second-fastest coach to reach 100 victories.
Sunday will mark the 42nd meeting between these two teams. LSU leads the all-time series 30-11, including a 12-3 advantage when playing in Baton Rouge. The Wildcats fell last season in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, 61-51. UK’s last win in Baton Rouge was Jan. 28, 2010 (71-62).
Nikki Caldwell knows how to combat UK’s press, the question will be in the execution:
"We have to be selective on the offensive end, Kentucky does a good job speeding you up. They disrupt offense with their defensive pressure. We have to be diligent in our screening. Their guards bring so much pressure. Everybody will have to take responsibility tomorrow. It’s a big opportunity for us in front of a big crowd."
Look for UK to try and get out on LSU early and keep the pressure on all day long. Kentucky cannot afford to toy with the Tigers at home, unless they want to spend the day in a struggle that they'd love to avoid. The game will be hard enough without Kentucky making the mistakes and turnovers that plagued them early this season. Half court execution and rebounding will be critical.
The SEC Standings are tight, but UK has the best record of any team in the conference, and holds all the tiebreakers. The need to beat beat LSU and Ole Miss this next week, and get ready to take on Tennessee in the season finale at Memorial.