LSU advances behind Fowles' 25 points, 10 rebounds

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Sylvia Fowles encountered an opponent even taller than she is for a change.

Not that it stopped LSU's 6-foot-6 senior center from outscoring everyone on the floor or dominating on the defensive end.

Fowles had 25 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and four steals to lead fourth-ranked LSU to a 64-41 victory over Michigan State (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) in the preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament semifinals on Thursday night.

"I went out there and played smart," Fowles said. "I thought everything through and tried to out-think my opponent."

The victory puts the Lady Tigers (3-0) in the WNIT finals against the winner of Friday night's semifinal between No. 3 Maryland and Notre Dame (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP).

Quianna Chaney added 14 points for LSU, most of that in the second half as the Lady Tigers built a 33-point lead.

Going against a center 3 inches taller than her in 6-foot-9 Allyssa DeHaan, Fowles started fast, scoring six of LSU's first 13 points to help the Lady Tigers build a 15-0 lead.

In the process, Fowles demonstrated that she had become a more complete offensive player while training with the U.S. national team over the summer, scoring on jump hooks, fadeaway jumpers or turning to face DeHaan with the ball and getting her out of position with an array of fakes and pivots.

"Usually, she uses her size. ... She used her quickness tonight," LSU coach Van Chancellor said. "That's what we've been trying to get her to do. She just can't come in there and back up against a kid that size all the time. ... We can't win a championship if we let other teams take the ball out of her hands."

Fowles' defensive play also frustrated DeHaan, who came in as MSU's scoring leader with 17 points a game but did not score in the first half.

"There's just such a huge difference between Allyssa and Sylvia Fowles," Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said. "Anyone in the stands could look at the two of them and watch them post up and see a completely different player. Sylvia just dominates the paint. She can just really create her own space. ... Al doesn't have that strength yet, so she uses more of her length, but against Sylvia it made it really hard because Sylvia really pushed her off the block. Sylvia owned the paint ... and Al got pushed away from the bucket."

No one on Michigan State (2-1) scored until Courtney Davidson hit a 3-pointer with 12:26 left in the first half. Davidson finished as MSU's scoring leader with 12 points, while Taja Wilson scored 11.

"It looked like we had never practiced a day of offense in our lives," Merchant said. "We're better than that, and we played rattled and we played scared."

Fowles, by contrast, scored 21 points in the first half alone, outscoring the entire Michigan State team as LSU built a 32-14 lead by halftime.

Fowles became the first LSU player to score more than 20 points in a half since Seimone Augustus scored 21 against Texas Tech in November 2005.

"It didn't shock me at all," Chaney said. "It's something I knew Sylvia could do and it was only a matter of time before she came out and did it."

Although DeHaan finally found her range in the second half with eight points, LSU widened its lead even more.

Chaney scored 12, including a pair of 3-pointers, during a 20-5 run capped by Allison Hightower's 3-pointer that put LSU ahead 60-27.