RUSTON — When Louisiana Tech and LSU open the season Friday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Thomas Assembly Center, it will mark the 31st meeting ever between the two in-state rivals.
And although it won’t be the first time first year Tech co-head coach Brooke Stoehr has been involved in the rivalry — she faced LSU as a player and as an assistant coach for the Lady Techsters — it will be the first time she has done so while at the helm of the storied program.
Stoehr — who had Lassiter written across the back of her LA Tech jersey in 1999 when the Lady Techsters defeated LSU 73-52 in the regional semifinals in Los Angeles — took over the Tech program in in April, becoming only the seventh head coach in the program’s history.
During her introductory press conference, Stoehr talked about building relationships, earning trust, and doing things the right way on and off the court. Never once did she mention wins and losses or X’s and O’s.
While Stoehr and her coaching staff have made great strides during the past six months with her points of emphasis, the moment has arrived where the wins and losses and X’s and O’s will shift to the forefront Friday night – at least in the eyes of the fans.
The game pits the state’s two most successful women’s basketball programs that both endured sub-500 seasons in 2015-16. Both are looking to start anew Friday night when the Columbia blue and red square off against the purple and gold.
“It’s an exciting time of year because basketball is upon us,” said Stoehr. “We are excited to open the season against LSU on Friday. Our players are looking forward to playing in front of our great fans and being back on their home court.”
Those great fans can enjoy plenty of amenities prior to tipoff Friday night. Louisiana Tech students are invited to enjoy some free jambalaya compliments of Brennan Dodge at 4:30 p.m. at Argent Pavilion while all Tech fans can enjoy the live music of Smackwater on the front steps of the TAC also starting at 4:30 p.m. A homecoming pep rally begins at 5:30 p.m. on the front steps of the TAC. Doors to the TAC open at 5 p.m.
On the court, LSU leads the series 16-14, including a 10-game winning streak. The two teams played for nine consecutive years before taking a hiatus last season. LSU head coach Nikki Fargas’ team endured a multitude of injuries last season and finished 10-21, including a 3-13 mark in SEC play.
“LSU had several season ending injuries for key players last year and have them back healthy now,” Stoehr said. “They have a versatile scorer on the inside and are balanced on the perimeter with experienced guard play. LSU will bring an athletic group into the TAC.”
The Lady Techsters return only two everyday starters from last year’s team that finished 14-16 overall, 9-9 in Conference USA play. Senior guard Rochelle Vasquez and red-shirt junior guard Ashley Santos saw the most playing time last season although sophomores Kierra Anthony, Jasmine LeBlanc and Reauna Cleaver also saw plenty of action.
Friday night will be the first time Tech fans will get a look at six players, including Texas A&M fifth-year transfer Shlonte’ Allen, red-shirt junior Alexus Malone, red-shirt freshman Anna McLeod, and true freshmen Daria McCutcheon, Ashley Reid and Kierra Lang.
It will also be the first time the Lady Techsters take the floor under the new leadership with a new system.
“I think we are all ready to get the season started,” said Santos. “Coach Brooke and the entire coaching staff have given us a new sense of focus and purpose. Basketball has been therapeutic, and we are ready to start a new season. I know I am excited.”
The Lady Techsters played a pair of closed scrimmages over the past two weeks, giving Stoehr and Co. a chance to get some game action and work on different areas of their game. Stoehr knows that facing LSU in the opener will be quite a challenge, but also understands the big picture – it’s just game No. 1 of a new era.
“We will need to play with poise against their matchup zone and pressure on the defensive end of the floor and force them to take contested shots and keep them off the offensive boards,” said Stoehr. “We are looking forward to watching this team grow throughout the season and take that first step on Friday.”
The contest can be heard on ESPN 97.7 FM with the pregame show starting at 6 p.m. Fans can also hear the action for free over the internet through the Tech Mobile X app as well as the Red Peach Media app and by logging onto www.espn977.com. Fans can see a live video stream of the action which includes the radio broadcast by subscribing to CUSATV.com.
Season and single game tickets are on sale and can be purchased by calling 318-257-3631 or stopping by the LA Tech Ticket Office weekdays (8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.).
— Louisiana Tech Sports Information