LSU 56

(31-5, 14-0 SEC)

North Carolina 50

(33-3, 14-0 ACC)

    7:30 PM ET, March 31, 2008

    Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana

    1 2 T
    LSU 24 3256
    UNC 21 2950

    Top Performers

    LSU: S. Fowles 21 Pts, 12 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl

    North Carolina: L. Pringle 21 Pts, 11 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl

    One Final Four streak must end when North Carolina meets LSU

    NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- North Carolina forward Erlana Larkins focused on the tattoo of a panther that runs more than half the length of her right forearm.

    "As you can see he has the blood coming from him," she began, pointing to splotches of red dripping from its claws. "It's just a very ferocious type of animal."

    Then she threw her forearm up, growling, and several around her flinched.

    "You see?" she quipped, then laughed.

    The stout, 6-foot-1 Larkins may very well get a lot of use out of that forearm in Monday night's NCAA Regional final, when her primary defensive assignment will be to contain LSU's 6-foot-6 All-America center, Sylvia Fowles.

    "It's going to be very physical," Larkins said. "Personally, I don't have a choice. Sylvia's 6-6, but I'm just going to go out there and give it all I have."

    As if the clash of two of the most intimidating front court players in women's college basketball weren't enough, there's also the matter of what's at stake.

    The winner will extend a streak of consecutive Final Four appearances, with top-seeded North Carolina (33-2) seeking its third straight trip and second-seeded LSU (30-5) seeking its fifth.

    North Carolina hasn't lost in 16 games, while LSU's roster includes eight seniors -- including all five starters -- who've never finished a season short of the Final Four in their Lady Tigers careers.

    Both programs have been so dominant during the past few seasons that Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell struggled to hide her annoyance at the fact that both weren't top seeds, and therefor had to meet prior to the Final Four.

    "It's a shame we have to play to go to the Final Four, just like two years ago when we had to play Tennessee," Hatchell said. "I definitely feel like LSU should be a No. 1 seed. ... This game (Monday) could easily be the caliber of game you'd see for a national championship. In fact, it could actually be better."

    There's also a bit of intrigue in that these teams have rarely met. The last and only time they played was in the Crawfish Classic in Baton Rouge, which LSU won, during the 1986-87 season.

    North Carolina, the reigning ACC champ, didn't exactly get all the trappings of a top seed. To advance, they have to play the Lady Tigers in Louisiana again, only 80 miles from LSU's campus. If Saturday's regional semifinals were any indication, the stands will be awash in purple and gold.

    LSU coach Van Chancellor, whose team played its first two rounds on campus and has yet to leave the state, said he would feel like someone on the tournament selection committee "didn't like me," if his team, for example, had been the top seed and had to play the Tar Heels in North Carolina.

    Still, he downplayed the advantage LSU might gain.

    "It's great to have fans, and they can help you defensively, but they can only carry you so far," Chancellor said. "I'm not as concerned with where I'm playing as who I'm playing. They're pretty good."

    Chancellor has had an illustrious coaching career in women's basketball, winning four WNBA titles, the gold medal at the Athens Games in 2004 and the FIBA World Championship in 2002. Yet he has never been to a Final Four. Before coaching the WNBA's Houston Comets, he spent 19 seasons at Ole Miss, where he made it as far as the regional finals four times.

    Chancellor, however, said he does not covet a Final Four appearance for himself.

    "This is not a burning, yearning deal with me," Chancellor said. "Every blessing that could happen to a coach in his lifetime has already happened to me. I'm just trying to do the best I can for these players, these young ladies, to have the opportunity to play for a national championship."

    LSU has never won a national title. This may be their best chance yet because of their experience and because of Fowles' ability to take over games on both ends of the floor. In LSU's 67-52 regional semifinal victory over Oklahoma State, the senior center overcame a slow start to finish with 12 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.

    LSU has other options as well. Point guard Erica White was their leading scorer against the Cowgirls with 18 points, while RaShonta LeBlanc scored 13 and Quianna Chaney 10, mostly on perimeter shots.

    "We're confident," said Chaney, who has averaged nearly 15 points a game this season. "We've proved to ourselves the last couple games that we have a lot of people that can shoot."

    North Carolina won a title in 1994, but not since, and has been eliminated from the tournament by the eventual champion in each of the past three seasons.

    The Tar Heels nearly stumbled in their third-round game against Louisville, falling behind by 18 before coming back to win 78-74. North Carolina's ability to get points from so many players helped the Tar Heels adjust to Louisville's swarming zone. They have five players who average double figures in scoring, led by Rashanda McCants (16), followed by LaToya Pringle (14.4), Larkins (13.8), Cetera DeGraffenreid (11.8) and Jessica Breland (10.6).

    "The best thing about us is our balance," Hatchell said. "When you're relying on two or three players to do all your scoring, then if one or two have a bad game, then it's usually over."


    Gameday Matchup

    Avg Points70.687.9
    Avg Points Allowed50.664.3
    Home Record15-222-0
    Road Record12-38-2
    Current StreakL1W13

    School Info

    Conference SEC ACC
    Nickname Lady Tigers Tar Heels
    Type Public Public


    » Mar 31, 2008 LSU 56, @UNC 50Recap | Box Score

    Starting Lineup

    LSU (PPG)
    UNC (PPG)
    NA  S. Fowles NA  L. Pringle
    NA  A. Thomas G  R. Mccants
    NA  E. White NA  E. Larkins
    NA  Q. Chaney G  H. Claytor
    NA  R. LeBlanc G  C. DeGraffenreid