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Listen: Kim Mulkey previews showdown with No. 1 South Carolina, 'nobody can beat them'

WWL Radio New Orleans 2/8/2023 Jeff Nowak
© Provided by WWL Radio New Orleans

All the hurdles are cleared. The grudge match is set. Get the popcorn ready for Super Bowl Sunday, and have it ready by early afternoon.

No, we're not talking about Eagles-Chiefs, though you should have snacks planned for that as well, we're talking about No. 3 LSU facing off with No. 1 South Carolina. Two unbeatens, assuming the Gamecocks take care of business against Auburn, squaring off in what could be a potential SEC Championship and possibly NCAA Tournament preview.

"We’ve got this week off to rest a little bit and get ready for by far the best team in the country," LSU head coach Kim Mulkey told Bobby Hebert and Mike Detillier this week on SportsTalk. "Nobody can beat them. But we’re sure as heck gonna go and try to not embarrass ourselves, play hard. We’re relevant now. It’s sold out. 18,000 people in the arena. Heck, it’s gonna be fun. The pressure is not on us. We’re not supposed to be doing what we’re doing, but we’re doing it and let’s see what happens.”

Listen to the full interview with Kim Mulkey in the player above. Can't see the embed? Click here.

The headline itself lost a bit of juice when Indiana leapfrogged LSU into the No. 2 spot of this week's AP top 25 despite the Tigers holding a perfect 23-0 record. The Tigers logged close wins over unranked Tennessee, Georgia and Texas A&M. But that doesn't matter to Mulkey. The rankings, she says, are really only important to the fans at this point in the season.

"Look, guys, rankings are overrated," Mulkey said. "That’s someone’s opinion, OK? Who decides if you’re 1 or 2? Now think about it, Bobby, a bunch of sports writers for Christ’s sake.

“It brings great recognition, but I can tell you Tennessee is one of the top 25 teams in the country. Their record doesn’t reveal it because they’ve played too many good teams. You’ve got to be careful to not overschedule.”

But the opportunity to go on the road to face the reigning national champions isn't lost on Mulkey, and she's using every opportunity to drill the Tigers on what it takes to slay "goliath," as she refers to the Gamecocks. That's true in both their status as the unquestioned top team in the country, and also their size. South Carolina also has depth and veteran leadership, but it's the 6-5 Aaliyah Boston and 6-7 Kamilla Cardoso that Mulkey knows presents the biggest concern. The Tigers are well-built on the interior as well, but the roster doesn't feature a player taller than 6-4.

"The last time I had 6-7 and 6-5 I had Kelani Brown out of Salman High School in Slidell and I had Lauren Cox out of Flower Mound High School in Texas and we won the national championship. Size matters," Mulkey said. "And that’s the two things that stand out, and because of that size this is going to be just a tremendous task to try to keep them off the boards."

One way or another, it's going to be appointment viewing, with the game set to tip off at 1 p.m. Sunday on ESPN. Mulkey is hoping that even the most ardent Super Bowl preppers can take the time to change the channel over to watch what is undoubtedly the most highly anticipated LSU women's basketball game in years.

"I really am excited to play them because that’s where we want to go as a program," Mulkey said. "That’s what we’re shooting for, and this is going to be a great opportunity for us and I just know how good they are. … It’s right before Super Bowl Sunday, so maybe we’ll get some of those casual football fans who don’t like women’s sports just to flip over between drinking beer and eating nachos.”


What do you say to your team before a game like this?

“I think I give them a little bit of all of it, but I don’t wait until pregame. I’ve got 4-5 days right now and each day I say something different and I’m gonna let them know, this is just one game, and if you can for 40 minutes just give everything you have, who knows what’s gonna happen? But I can tell you, if we beat them ... we’re gonna shake their hands. We’re not gonna celebrate.

"What does that mean if we beat them? It means that you’ve got a leg up on the SEC Championship. If we lose, we’re not going to be devastated. … You’ll be disappointed, but nonetheless, you don’t overemphasize the importance of a game. Is it a big game? Sure, it’s a big game. But it’s not the most important game that we’ll play this year. I think you talk to them about being the underdog. I think you talk to them about how many people have beaten the Goliath. Hell, I beat the Goliath when I was at Baylor and beat LSU in 2005 when they had Seimone Augustus and they have Silvia Fowles and Tameka Johnson. But I’ve also been on the other end of that when we were the Goliath and we were upset. And what I tell you, old Herm Edwards’ famous quote: ’That’s why you play the games.’ “

How do you stay competitive in this game?

“We’re not going to grow to 6-7 and 6-5 overnight. If ya’ll know where I could take them to go eat before Sunday that’ll make us grow a few inches, give me a call. But you’ve got to do the little things. You’ve got to not get buried deep defensively. You’re not going to block their shot. You’ve got to make sure you bring the bigs away from the basket. You’re not going to just post up on them, they’re going to block your shot.

"You’ve got to be creative against them, but yet not change who you are. You’re not going to go create this offense in the next 2 or 3 days that we haven’t done for 23 basketball games. You’re just going to do the best you can. You’re going to make sure that you don’t let the crowd take you out of the game. Just compete, and I’ve been in these games many a time where tight games we’ve won, tight games we’ve lost and hell I’ve been on the other end where we’ve been blown out before on national television, and that’s not fun either. I know this, 18,000 fans, you can’t get a ticket … that is good for LSU women’s basketball. It’s good for the SEC. It’s good for women’s basketball.”

Is it important not to try to change too much?

“It’s called over-coaching. We probably have all played for coaches who think they’re smarter than the guy on the other end, and at the end of the day the players are the ones that win the ballgame. The players are the ones who make plays. The players can be told a few things in a timeout, we can tweak some stuff the next two or three days, we can run some quick-hitters, all those kinds of things. But at the end of the day, they’re out there and they’re just going to go compete.

"Who’s gonna get to the 50-50 balls? Who’s going to get that one extra rebound? Who’s going to push it up the floor? It’s not complicated. Coaches, really in a game of this magnitude, I’m telling you, coaches probably will have zero to do with the outcome. Now, each coach will have some little something that we will do that may help our teams throughout the course of the game. But at the end of it, buddy, and that’s in any sport, players go make plays.”

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