Nikki Caldwell says LSU in 'desperate situation'

Caldwell is worried about NCAA berth

BATON ROUGE, La. — Nikki Caldwell works from the same LSU office once occupied by former Tigers football coach Nick Saban.

Yet, the Lady Tigers second-year women's basketball coach has a different view.

As the former Tennessee player and assistant coach surveys her domain, she offers an outlook that doesn't sound very Saban-like.

"We're in a desperate situation here," she said.

LSU (13-9, 4-5 SEC) needs a victory and the next opportunity comes today (TV: CSS, 9 p.m.) against No. 12 Tennessee (17-5, 8-1) at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The Lady Tigers actually need victories and their schedule isn't brimming with opportunity.

Tennessee's visit completes a tour of the conference penthouse. Texas A&M, the other team atop the standings, was here Monday night, leaving with a 74-57 victory.

LSU likely needs a .500 record in regular-season league play or a deep run in the conference tournament to assure an NCAA berth. Otherwise, the Lady Tigers will be spectators for first- and second-round play next month at their arena.

"I don't know what I'd do," Caldwell said. "I'm not going to think about that. It's not happening. Better find a way."

Instead, Caldwell thinks along the same lines as her friend and UT counterpart, Holly Warlick. Both are dealing with teams whose preoccupation with offense has cost them on defense.

After Tennessee's 80-63 loss at Missouri, Lady Vols point guard Ariel Massengale conceded, "We thought we could outscore them. It didn't happen. That's why we have to get back to basics and what we're capable of doing."

LSU forward Theresa Plaisance, who shot 0-for-7 from the floor to start against A&M, blamed herself for the loss afterward and said, "I think I could've done a lot more."

Both Tennessee and LSU lost five seniors from last season's teams. The Lady Tigers also lost freshman Krystal Forthan, a McDonald's All-American. The 6-foot-4 post player transferred, bouncing from West Virginia to Utah before finally landing at Academy of Art University, a Division II school in San Francisco.

Although LSU's training room hasn't been as busy as Tennessee's lately, Lady Tigers starting guard Jeanne Kenney suffered an injury to her left knee on Monday. She practiced Wednesday, wearing a brace. She won't start tonight but likely will play.

After eight consecutive seasons of being among the SEC leaders in defense, the Lady Tigers are in the middle of the pack, at best, in all of the pertinent statistics, allowing nearly 65 points per game on average.

Caldwell would like to deploy multiple alignments, even switch on the same possession. For the time being, she's wedded primarily to a traditional 2-3 zone.

Given the circumstances, Caldwell has to guard against overreacting.

"I have to watch my blood pressure; I have high blood pressure," she said. "Sometimes I get too worked up and then after the game OK, here comes the headache."

While she might tone down her reaction, she's not budging on her principles. Caldwell talks of "sweat equity" and defines the term not only in defense and rebounding, but also sprinting the floor, setting hard screens and being strong with the ball, etc.

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair thinks that Caldwell has gotten her point across about being competitive. He also mentioned Lady Tigers assistant Tasha Butts, another former Lady Vol.

"They fight," he said of the Lady Tigers. "The fight comes from looking at their coaching staff. Could they look Butts or Caldwell in the eye if they're not going to play the way they played at Tennessee?"

Caldwell sounded like her usual self when saying that she still believes her team can win every game.

Moreover, she sounded like Saban in talking about recruiting and re-establishing a presence in such states as Texas, Georgia and Florida. Signee Raigyne Moncrief, a 5-10 guard who's ranked No. 18 in the Class of 2013 by ESPN HoopGurlz, is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

LSU might add as many as two junior college players in the spring.

In the meantime, they need wins — desperately.

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Comments » 18

coffy73 writes:

UCLA was a great fit for Nikki, not so much LSU. Of course, Caldwell's coming off a pregnancy, so maybe that's gotten her off her game a little. I tell ya, a terrific fit would be Tenn. and maybe she'll be ready for that in a year or two :). This is the head coach the LVs need!

r2d2 writes:

Nikki is not a good fit for Tenn. Maya Moore's mother would not let her play at TN because CPS was divorced. She would have gone bananas at Nikki's situation. I know this seems hypocritical but this is what some people believe.

tonyvick#213307 writes:

Aren't we kinda desperate too? A loss and we can move to sixth which is below what the experts predicted.

maxvolfan#217855 writes:

in response to tonyvick#213307:

Aren't we kinda desperate too? A loss and we can move to sixth which is below what the experts predicted.

Huh? Sixth? You're mistaken sir.

ps11824 writes:

[[[ LSU forward Theresa Plaisance, who shot 0-for-7
from the floor to start against A&M, blamed herself
for the loss afterward and said, "I think I could've
done a lot more." ]]]

Lookout for that. She's apt to set her new career scoring record tonight. We've allowed certain players to 'go off' on us too many times. I'm concerned about our lack of depth. We've had dependable bench points up until last game. We don't really have a bench presence now that we can count on.

That old sly fox, Gary Blair. He has such a way of praising his opponents to death. I've always admired his coaching skills. He has done a remarkable job at A&M.

We do need a powerful game from Massengale tonight. I can't recall such a game from her since ... well, whenever. We do need a win tonight. It is going to be a challenge. It doesn't take a genius to say Bashaara Graves will have her very capable hands full tonight.

One questionable hand, that of Ciera Burdick, and only because of the uncertainty of one being ready to return to fierce battle, must be ready to score, rebound and employ lockdown defense.

Work hard, Lady Vols.

DICK_MASTERSON_N_TENN (Inactive) writes:

Caldwell is twice the Coach that HW is. Thats a fact!

budd#207344 writes:

in response to DICK_MASTERSON_N_TENN:

Caldwell is twice the Coach that HW is. Thats a fact!

Then why is Holly winning while Caldwell is losing? It is all about the record. And Holly's is much better. And that is the only fact jack.

ladyvolsfan789 writes:

This could be a dangerous game for both teams. Neither LSU nor the Lady Vols can really take another injury and LSU/Tennessee games are usually very physical. If we had Harrison, I think this would be an easy game for us since LSU's style of play doesn't match up very well against Tennessee's, but we don't so Graves will have her hands full in the post. I think if Simmons or Burdick have a good game the Lady Vols should be able to get the win.

vettefool writes:

in response to DICK_MASTERSON_N_TENN:

Caldwell is twice the Coach that HW is. Thats a fact!

ditto that.

ps11824 writes:

stargaze

johnlg00 writes:

I agree with you. I have all the respect in the world for Nikki. She should have as long a coaching career at high-level programs for as long as she wants one. I would not have kicked if she had gotten the job when Pat retired. Still, there is just no basis for a claim that she is CLEARLY a better coach than Holly.

DICK_MASTERSON_N_TENN (Inactive) writes:

in response to budd#207344:

Then why is Holly winning while Caldwell is losing? It is all about the record. And Holly's is much better. And that is the only fact jack.

Holly took over a legendary program that was ran by a legend only to lose to Chattanooga out of the gate. Then managed to get blown out by a team you beat by 45 a few weeks earlier. Yeah, HW is a great coach....#sarcasm......

BeRealistic writes:

Holly should be what she's been (Asst coach). She's not HC material. Players don't pay much attention to her coaching.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to DICK_MASTERSON_N_TENN:

Holly took over a legendary program that was ran by a legend only to lose to Chattanooga out of the gate. Then managed to get blown out by a team you beat by 45 a few weeks earlier. Yeah, HW is a great coach....#sarcasm......

Holly also took over a program that lost most of its starters from the previous year. The name of the program and its history doesn't make players grow up faster. Then you have all the injuries. I have no complaint with anybody who says the jury may still be out on Holly at least to some extent, but, again, there is no rational basis to state positively that Nikki is a better coach than Holly.

Theo writes:

in response to DICK_MASTERSON_N_TENN:

Holly took over a legendary program that was ran by a legend only to lose to Chattanooga out of the gate. Then managed to get blown out by a team you beat by 45 a few weeks earlier. Yeah, HW is a great coach....#sarcasm......

I don't know how to check this but I'm guessing this is a "new" poster who was previously associated with livestock.
Just can't let go of the fact that Holly and her staff have outperformed expectations this year, have a number 1 or 2 recruiting class coming in next year and will probably hang an NC banner within the next three years.
You are so transparent and so pathetic.

oldbasshead writes:

Lady Vols, with exception of Simmons, lack quickness and strength. This hurts them in playing defense. LSU got a lot of offensive rebounds, steels and points from being quicker than Lady Vols.

golfman1975 writes:

How about 7 total fouls on LSU IN THE GAME with 15 sec remaining. How about only playing 7 players...

Theo writes:

in response to oldbasshead:

Lady Vols, with exception of Simmons, lack quickness and strength. This hurts them in playing defense. LSU got a lot of offensive rebounds, steels and points from being quicker than Lady Vols.

I would agree that we have some kids who could be quicker but I think Kamicko and JJ are both very quick and Bashaara, although a little overpowered tonight by the bash twins (good Lord those are big girls) is generally very strong.

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