4:00 PM ET, March 6, 2007
LAFAYETTE, La. -- Middle Tennessee coach Rick Insell expects Chrissy Givens to play better as the stakes get bigger. And she keeps delivering.Givens scored 33 points to lead No. 16 Middle Tennessee to its fourth straight Sun Belt Conference tournament championship in a 77-67 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday. "If you could buy stock in Chrissy Givens, you'd get wealthy," Insell said. "To have the target on your back all year and still come out and have your best games in big games? I don't know if we'll ever see another Chrissy Givens come through Middle Tennessee," Insell said. "She's playing to get into the NCAA Tournament and win the national championship -- in practice -- every time the ball touches her hands. I've never seen that out of anybody." Givens' showing against Louisiana-Lafayette was the best of three impressive tournament performances for the senior, who will leave college basketball never knowing what it's like to miss an NCAA Tournament. She scored 24 in a victory over South Alabama in the quarterfinals and 28 in Monday's semifinal win over Denver. Her total of 85 points set a scoring record for a Sun Belt tournament. "I kind of took it upon myself," Givens said. "This game was going to be the last time I play in the Sun Belt and we have a couple freshman who haven't won a ring. So I said 'Chrissy, this is one of the best times to step up and put the ball in the hole for them.' I just thought, 'Give me the ball and let's go.'" Amber Holt scored 20 and Johnna Abney 12 for the Blue Raiders (29-3), who have won a school-record 26 games in a row. Holt and Abney combined for six 3-pointers, including one each on back-to-back possessions that gave Middle Tennessee a 61-46 lead with about 10 minutes remaining. That lead proved too much to overcome for Louisiana-Lafayette (25-8), which got within single digits several times, only to be done in by Givens' relentless scoring. She was 13-for-21 from the floor and made all six of her free throws. Yolanda Jones led the Ragin' Cajuns with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Alicia McDaniel added 13, Jeanenne Colbert 11 and Sonora Edwards 10. Jones held out hope that a 25-victory season and a competitive showing against the Blue Raiders would be enough for Louisiana-Lafayette to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Middle Tennessee had won their previous two games by 27 and 26 points. "They didn't blow us out. We played with them," Jones said. Insell agreed. "On two different occasions we're ready to put it away ... and they come right back and get a 3-pointer. So they just took the momentum right back away from us. No one has done that all year," Insell said. "They didn't quit at all." Louisiana-Lafayette outshot Middle Tennessee 53.1 percent to 45.3 percent and outrebounded the Blue Raiders 33-29, but Middle Tennessee was more accurate from long range and used constant pressure to force 24 turnovers, which it converted into 28 points. "They kept changing their defenses," Louisiana-Lafayatte coach J. Kelley Hall said. "We struggled a little bit against the trap and I think that's where their experience comes in. They just continue to change. They wouldn't let you keep doing the same thing over and over." Louisiana-Lafayette played with enough hustle and composure to answer the Blue Raiders basket-for-basket through most of the opening 10 minutes. Colbert's three-point play on a driving layup as she was fouled got the Ragin' Cajuns as close as 18-17. Unfazed, Middle Tennessee methodically kept the pressure on the Cajuns even while rotating in its reserves. The Blue Raiders set up Holt for an easy layup and then applied aggressive, trapping defense that forced five turnovers during a 9-0 run. Givens, despite being guarded by one of the Cajuns' best defenders in McDaniel, had a basket and two free throws during the run and reserve Jackie Pickel added a 3-pointer. McDaniel, who had 11 points in the first half, scored a pair of inside baskets and two free throws to help the Cajuns trim the deficit to 33-29. But Givens was too much for the Cajuns, muscling in a tough shot over Edwards on the baseline, then hitting a transition jumper at the halftime buzzer to put Middle Tennessee ahead 39-29. "We really just got frustrated," McDaniel said, "And frustration doesn't help you when you're trying come back in a game."
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||26-50 (.520)||29-64 (.453)|
|3P Made-Attempted||4-10 (.400)||8-26 (.308)|
|FT Made-Attempted||11-16 (.688)||11-15 (.733)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||14 (0/0)||17 (0/0)|