1:00 PM ET, March 4, 2005
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) -- LSU coach Pokey Chatman couldn't understand why point guard Tameka Johnson wasn't rushing up the court to try for a game-winning shot.A TV replay showed why -- and helped the top-ranked Lady Tigers beat Alabama 60-59 on Friday in the Southeastern Conference women's tournament.After Natasha Gamble's basket appeared to be a game-tying 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds left, Johnson dribbled up court and held the ball without taking a shot off as time ran out."I thought it was odd when we inbounded the ball that Tameka didn't have any urgency," Chatman said. "She evidently saw an official signal a two-point basket."Johnson must have been one of the few at Bi-Lo Center who did.Soon after, three officials were huddled around a monitor with Chatman and Alabama coach Rick Moody. The officials ruled Gamble's foot touched the line, making it a two-point goal instead of the tying basket.Gamble said a defender was in her face."So, I had to take a step to the side in order to shoot," she explained. "I can't say where I was standing."No one was sure what do next. Moody figured the game was over. Chatman was moving her players toward the locker room.But officials put the remaining seconds back on the clock. Scholanda Hoston missed two free-throw attempts for LSU before a desperation shot by Alabama's Marverly Nettles was off the mark, at last ending LSU's 15th straight victory.Brian Enterline, the referee crew chief, said replays clearly showed Gamble's right foot on the line. He said 5.1 seconds were put back on the clock because that's when the disputed basket went through.Bill Stokes, the SEC coordinator of women's basketball officials, also said Gamble's foot was on the line."It's a tough play but we made a decision totally unbiased," Enterline said.Seimone Augustus had 20 points for LSU (28-1) in the opening-round game. Monique Bivins led Alabama (14-15) with 20 points.The Lady Tigers will take on fourth-seeded Georgia or fifth-seeded Ole Miss in Saturday's semifinals. LSU is trying to become the first SEC regular-season champ to win the tournament title since Tennessee in 2000.The loss brought to an end the 16-year career of Alabama's Moody, who with 311 victories is the school's all-time winningest coach. Moody announced his resignation last month, saying it was time for someone else to rebuild the Crimson Tide after their third straight losing season."Everybody here would have preferred the opportunity to play another five minutes and determine the outcome of the game," Moody said. "But rules are rules, and I have been on both sides of them during my career."For a long while, it looked as if Moody's club might pull off a massive upset.Alabama played a deliberate style that took away LSU's speed and aggressiveness. Krystle Johnson's second 3-pointer, with 2:27 left, had Alabama ahead 57-53 and the Lady Tigers in trouble.But Florence Williams converted a three-point play and Sylvia Fowles made a foul shot. After Gamble missed a jumper, Augustus got the rebound and found a streaking Hoston for an easy layup with 1:06 left and a 58-57 lead."I'm not taking away anything from Alabama because they played very well," Johnson said. "But we didn't play our game and didn't execute well."Johnson added 10 points for LSU, held without a 3-pointer (0-of-3) for just the fourth time this season.Krystle Johnson had a career-high 16 points for Alabama. Gamble scored 12 points but made only 5-of-21 shots.LSU didn't look much like the No. 1 team early on. The Lady Tigers made only 4-of-17 shots and could not stop Alabama from getting open looks from 3-point range. After Tillie Willis' three-point play brought LSU within 15-13, the Crimson Tide hit four 3s in their next seven possessions to go up 29-19 with 4:21 left in the first half.That's when the Lady Tigers -- with the SEC's best defense -- clamped down. They didn't allow another point in the half and cut the lead to 29-25 at the break.
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