(4) Rutgers 59

(27-8, 12-4 Big East)

(3) LSU 35

(30-8, 11-4 SEC)

    7:00 PM ET, April 1, 2007

    1 2 T
    #4RUTG 37 2259
    #3LSU 19 1635

    Top Performers

    Rutgers: M. Ajavon 18 Pts, 4 Reb

    LSU: E. White 9 Pts, 4 Reb

    Against Rutgers, success for LSU and Fowles is no slam dunk

    CLEVELAND (AP) -- Sylvia Fowles stirred up the crowd watching LSU's practice when she dunked during a rebounding drill -- then behaved as if she regretted turning heads.

    A Baton Rouge, La., TV news crew asked for an encore. No such luck.

    Fowles was done, already shifting the spotlight back to her team, which will meet Rutgers (26-8) in the national semifinals Sunday night.

    "If you watched Sylvia today, she was almost embarrassed to dunk," LSU acting head coach Bob Starkey said. "Sylvia almost never does anything to bring attention to Sylvia and to take away from her team."

    Instead, she's focused on helping LSU (30-7) do something it has failed to do in three Final Four appearances the past three seasons -- win.

    Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said she's unsure what kind of defensive scheme would slow down LSU's 6-foot-6 junior center.

    "I don't know what we're going to do," Stringer said Saturday. "She is one of the few players that she will change your scheme. ... This is a one-woman wrecking crew."

    Fowles hasn't had to dunk to energize teammates or intimidate foes. Her speed, jump hook, ferocious rebounding and blocked shots will present enough of a challenge for Rutgers.

    Still, a LSU victory is no slam dunk.

    Starkey said he's seen enough film on Rutgers to know the Scarlet Knights will find a way to disrupt LSU's flow.

    "They're the one team that I can say they're every bit as quick as we are, and that, right there, helps them immensely," Starkey said. "The things we've been able to do against teams that don't have speed, we won't be able to do against them. And their quickness creates problems for us."

    That quickness could allow Rutgers to deny passes inside to Fowles by harassing the passer rather than swarming multiple defenders on Fowles. That would leave Kia Vaughn to guard Fowles mostly on her own.

    "I go out and play each and every post (player) the same," Vaughn said. "I make them work for what they want to get done."

    Either way, expect a low-scoring game. LSU and Rutgers have won all season with defense.

    LSU entered the NCAA tournament as the nation's top-ranked defensive team, allowing the fewest points per game at 49.4 and the lowest opponents' field-goal percentage at 32.6 percent.

    Twice this season, LSU won while scoring fewer than 50 points -- most recently against West Virginia, 49-43, in the tournament's second round.

    Rutgers adopted a similar defensive style after starting 2-4. The Scarlet Knights are 24-4 since.

    Stringer and her squad have struggled at times this season. At one point, she banned the players from their locker room and did not allow them to wear school colors because she was so disappointed with their effort.

    "After a while we started playing together -- playing the defense you're used to seeing by Scarlet Knights," swing player Essence Carson said.

    It paid off.

    In their last two victories, Rutgers held Duke to 52 points and Arizona to 45.

    "The biggest thing I see is both teams enjoy playing defense, and that can be sometimes rare," said Starkey, who has spent two decades as an assistant college coach with the LSU men and women, including a stint under Dale Brown while Shaquille O'Neal was playing.

    Starkey's making his first Final Four appearance as a head coach. He took over before the tournament, when Pokey Chatman abruptly resigned amid allegations of improper conduct with one or more former players.

    "We were playing good basketball before the things that unfolded (with Chatman's resignation), so it wasn't like we had to reinvent the wheel," Starkey said. "A lot has been made of me being in this position, but these kids have been phenomenal."

    That's no surprise to Rutgers.

    The Scarlet Knights will need a team effort against the Lady Tigers, who have exploited openings on the perimeter when a team loads up defensively on Fowles. Quianna Chaney, Allison Hightower, Erica White and Ashley Thomas all have been reliable shooting from outside recently.

    "All of these players can get it done," Stringer said. "They're powerful, and they complement each other well."


    Gameday Matchup

    Avg Points65.067.2
    Avg Points Allowed55.949.4
    Home Record14-215-2
    Road Record8-611-5
    Current StreakW3L1

    School Info

    Conference Big Ten SEC
    Nickname Scarlet Knights Lady Tigers
    Type Public Public


    » Apr 1, 2007 RUTG 59, @LSU 35Recap | Box Score

    Starting Lineup

    RUTG (PPG)
    LSU (PPG)
    C  K. Vaughn NA  S. Fowles
    F  H. Zurich NA  A. Thomas
    NA  E. Carson NA  E. White
    NA  M. Ajavon NA  Q. Chaney
    G  E. Prince NA  R. LeBlanc