9:00 PM ET, March 28, 2005
McKenzie Arena, Chattanooga, Tennessee
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- LSU was finally picking on someone its own size, and it looked at first like the top-seeded Lady Tigers had gone soft from feasting on lesser opponents.But not even Duke could long withstand All-American Seimone Augustus and LSU's furious defense. The top-seeded Lady Tigers are going to a second straight Final Four after beating the second-seeded Blue Devils 59-49 on Monday night in the Chattanooga Regional final.LSU was down early but tied it at halftime, went ahead in the opening minutes of the second half and never trailed again."I think it will help the team," Augustus said about being tested. "This is a big momentum-getter and confidence-booster."The Lady Tigers (33-2) will face second-seeded Baylor, a 72-63 winner over top-seeded North Carolina, in the national semifinals Sunday in Indianapolis."For me, the first time is the best time, but it's good to get back," senior point guard Temeka Johnson said.Augustus, the regional's most outstanding player, finished with 24 points and Sylvia Fowles added 13 points and 11 rebounds.LSU beat its first three opponents in the tournament by an average of 36 points, but the competition was much tougher Monday.Johnson seemed to frown every time she brought the ball up the court in the first half, unable to get around taller defenders or find an open teammate."It was the most frustrating in a long time," she said. "We were taking it from ourselves. We were falling into traps they set."The Blue Devils (31-5) had a good game plan to go inside and take advantage of their bigger posts, and it worked early. Duke was ahead by as many as 12 in the first half, putting the Lady Tigers in their biggest deficit of the season.Then LSU turned up its defensive pressure, tipping passes and blocking shots, and brought in Fowles, the 6-foot-5 freshman, to help clog the middle. She helped the Lady Tigers outrebound Duke 42-27, and the Blue Devils scored only 19 points in the second half. Their point and rebound totals were season lows."We felt coming into this game it was going to be a game won in the paint. Duke is a tremendous defensive team. We've been known on occasion to play very good defense," LSU coach Pokey Chatman said.Duke's All-American Monique Currie, who hasn't decided whether she is returning for her senior season, finished with 11 points. Mistie Williams added 15 on 7-of-7 shooting from the floor."I struggled throughout the game," Currie said. "It was difficult for me to get an open shot."After the game, the LSU players danced in a circle while they donned hats and shirts proclaiming them regional champions. Each climbed the ladder to cut off a piece of the net. Fittingly, Johnson and Augustus ended up with nets around their necks.Chatman ran off the court suddenly in the middle of the celebration to talk on the cell phone with Sue Gunter, who retired as LSU's coach last year because of health reasons. Gunter offered her congratulations from her hospital room, where she is recovering from pneumonia.LSU's shooting was cold to start the game, and the Tigers went down 12 points when Alison Bales made a basket over Fowles with 8:14 to go in the first half.LSU trimmed the lead and then took control when they keyed an 8-0 run to finish the half with three straight takeaways and tie it at 30.Duke could not regain the intensity it had at the beginning. The Blue Devils got as close as two points with 13:40 remaining but couldn't stop LSU."I'm so proud of this team," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "I know they've come much farther than anyone could have guessed."
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||19-53 (.358)||23-53 (.434)|
|3P Made-Attempted||2-13 (.154)||1-5 (.200)|
|FT Made-Attempted||9-11 (.818)||12-20 (.600)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||20 (0/0)||15 (0/0)|