8:00 PM ET, February 2, 2006
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Ashley Thomas has noticed a new strategy by LSU's opponents lately. Desperate to slow down stars Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles, teams have backed off the less-heralded Thomas, giving her plenty of open shots."That's been happening for the last however many games," Thomas said. "I stay after practice and get some extra shots in so I'll be able to bury them."Thomas scored a career-high 17 points Thursday night, and Fowles added 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead LSU (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today; No. 3 AP) to a 93-59 win over Arkansas.LSU started 8-for-10 to build an early lead. Arkansas tried dropping defenders to help against the 6-foot-6 Fowles, but Thomas foiled that plan by making three straight shots from the near the foul line in the first six minutes.Thomas, a sophomore who had knee surgery last season, entered averaging 3.9 points per game. She went 7-for-8 from the field."She looked so much in a comfort zone shooting that jumper," LSU coach Pokey Chatman said. "Ever since the knee injury, she's fought back to come back really hard."Augustus added 19 points for the Lady Tigers, who won their 21st straight regular-season Southeastern Conference game. LSU shot 58 percent from the field and broke the game open with a 15-0 run to end the first half.The Lady Tigers (19-1, 7-0) led 47-23 at the break. Arkansas made its first six shots of the second half, including four 3-pointers, but the Lady Razorbacks couldn't stop LSU with any consistency, allowing their most points of the season. LSU has won seven straight against Arkansas and scored at least 90 points the last four meetings.LSU finished with a 58-18 advantage in the paint and was 0-for-3 on 3-pointers. Fowles, a sophomore, overpowered Arkansas' smaller defenders, going 9-for-12 from the field."She's a new talent, I think, for women's basketball," Arkansas coach Susie Gardner said. "She is the future. Whoever has Sylvia is going to win a lot of games no matter who else is around. LSU happens to have great talent besides her."Leslie Howard led Arkansas with 17 points, 11 in the second half. The Lady Razorbacks' Kristin Peoples, averaging 11.9 points, missed her second straight game because of back problems.The Lady Razorbacks (13-8, 5-3) trailed 32-23 before being held scoreless for the final 6:32 of the first half. LSU entered ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 48 points per game.RaShonta LeBlanc made a pair of free throws with 44.4 seconds left in the half to make it 45-23. LSU has led by at least 21 points in all but three games this season.The Lady Tigers have won five straight since a 51-48 loss to No. 4 Connecticut on Jan. 16.Augustus, the reigning national player of the year, scored in double figures for the 82nd straight game, but LSU didn't need her to dominate."You've got Seimone and Sylvia, the one-two punch. And then you've got Thomas, their [power foward] that we thought was only going to average three points a game, pulls off 17," Howard said. "They're solid at every position. Hard to stop that."The Lady Tigers were the second consecutive team to beat Arkansas without taking a lot of long-range shots. South Carolina went 0-of-3 from 3-point range in a 61-52 win over the Lady Razorbacks on Sunday."We love points in the paint," Chatman said. "If the 3 shows early, by the right person, we're okay with it. But it's just a matter of mind-set and playing the percentages."Arkansas began a stretch of six straight games against teams currently in the Top 25, including a game at No. 5 Tennessee on Sunday and the rematch at LSU on Feb. 19.