LSU might not be the highest-seeded team while hosting first and second-round NCAA tournament games, but it is more than happy to have the home fans on its side.
The seventh-seeded Tigers will try to ride that home-court advantage into the regionals starting Sunday versus No. 10 seed Georgia Tech.
A fixture in the field of 64, LSU (19-12) was also a sub-regional host last year despite being a sixth seed. The Tigers responded with two wins, including an upset of No. 3 Penn State in the second round to reach the round of 16 to improve to 16-3 all-time at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in NCAA tournament play.
”We definitely couldn’t have done it without that crowd there. I had the chills for like 20 minutes after that game,” recalled senior forward Theresa Plaisance, who leads LSU in scoring with 15.6 points per game. ”It was such a great experience for our seniors to go out like that last year. It was a blessing when we found out that we got the bid and we could play on our home court again.”
The Tigers were lucky just to get in the field this time around after finishing 10th in the always-competitive SEC and have lost seven of eight heading into this game. They snapped a six-game skid with a first-round win over Alabama in the conference tournament before losing to Tennessee in the quarterfinals.
Plaisance also averages a team-high 7.6 rebounds, but if LSU is going to have any chance to advance, it must continue to force turnovers. The Tigers forced opponents into 18.8 turnovers per game, which helped them hold teams to 64.3 points per game.
Georgia Tech (20-11) finished seventh in the ACC but used a late surge to reach the NCAA tournament, winning seven of its last 10 ahead of this contest. The backcourt tandem of Tyaunna Marshall and Kaela Davis power the Yellow Jackets, combining to average 38.2 points, and the freshman Davis made a team-high 83 3-pointers.
Marshall is also the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,109 points and was third in the ACC at 19.6 points per game this season. Sydney Wallace, who contributes 9.5 points per game and is a 33.6 percent 3-point shooter, is expected to play after missing the previous three games with a neck injury.
”I’ve taken the right steps and everything in getting back to where I need to be,” Wallace said. ”Sitting out and learning and watching helped me also.”
The teams were a combined 2-16 against Top 25 opponents this season. The winner will face either No. 2 seed West Virginia or 15th-seeded Albany in the second round Tuesday.