COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Sylvia Fowles felt lucky to beat South Carolina. That's not how the LSU star wants her team to keep winning.
Fowles had 23 points and 20 rebounds to lift the seventh-ranked Lady Tigers to a 49-46 victory over the Gamecocks on Sunday. But Fowles knows she and her teammates have a lot of work ahead if they hope to compete in the Southeastern Conference.
"I think it was a lucky game," Fowles said. "We have to do much better than we did tonight."
The Lady Tigers (21-3, 7-2) sure didn't look like a club that has won 30 or more games three times in the past four seasons and challenged Tennessee, Georgia and Vanderbilt for the SEC title.
LSU shot a season-worst 27.6 percent (16-of-58) and was held to its lowest point total of the year. Fowles seemed to be everywhere the Lady Tigers needed her when the game was on the line.
Fowles made eight of 12 field goals, but her biggest points may have been her final two from the free throw line when the Lady Tigers were up 45-44 with 1:40 to go.
Fowles missed the first of a one-and-one situation, but South Carolina's Lakesha Tolliver was whistled for a lane violation. Given a second chance, Fowles made them both to give the Lady Tigers a 47-44 lead.
Moments later with the lead down to 47-46, Fowles grabbed Stacy Booker's attempt to save the ball from going out of bounds with 25 seconds to go.
"That's the beauty of the offense, move where the ball moves," Fowles said. "I struggled with it sometimes, but in the end it pays off."
Still, the Gamecocks had prime opportunities at the end to tie the game.
After LSU's Erica White hit two foul shots, South Carolina got two chances to tie. Lauren Simms' long 3-pointer went around the rim and out with 12.7 seconds left and, when Ashley Thomas missed a pair of free throws for the Lady Tigers, Melanie Johnson hit the top of the backboard on her try as time expired.
LSU has won its past 10 games against South Carolina.
While relief came with the win, Fowles said more work is needed for the Lady Tigers to find their stride. The South Carolina win followed LSU's 53-51 loss to Georgia this past Thursday night.
"We got to make sure we come out and do what we've got to do to be consistent," she said. "I think we learned."
Fowles collected her 17th double-double of the season before the game was 13 minutes old; nobody else on the team scored more than eight points in the game.
LSU coach Pokey Chatman was glad Fowles was there to bail out the team, but was unimpressed otherwise. The rest of her team shot 8-of-46 from the field. The other four starters combined to go 4-of-29, while LSU was 0-of-6 from three-point range.
"At the end of the day, it tests your character to execute well," Chatman said.
Johnson led South Carolina (13-11, 3-6) with 11 points.
South Carolina had no answer for Fowles, particularly in the first half.
After having her first shot blocked by Ilona Burgrova, Fowles made six straight buckets before missing again. The last of the run was a nifty, left-handed hook that gave the Tigers a 20-15 lead.
Fowles finished the half 7-of-9 from the field for 18 points and 12 rebounds, a performance that would typically mean a big lead for her team.
But the rest of the Lady Tigers struggled to hit shots, going a combined 2-of-21 in the half and they led just 28-25 going into the break.
The Gamecocks tightened their defense on Fowles in the second half and she was held to one basket.
Still, it wasn't enough to keep Fowles or the Lady Tigers from leaving with a win.
"It's disappointing for our kids because they know they're that close," South Carolina coach Susan Walvius said. "It's comes down to a turnover, it comes down to a rebound, it comes down to stop, it's little things over the course of that game that can add up for you."