FRESNO, Calif. -- With two or three defenders surrounding Sylvia Fowles nearly every time she got the ball, Florida State dared Quianna Chaney to shoot. Chaney happily obliged and knocked the Seminoles right out of the NCAA Tournament.
Chaney scored eight of her 22 points during a 10-0 run to open the second half, and third-seeded LSU moved into the Fresno Regional final with a 55-43 victory over 10th-seeded Florida State on Saturday night.
"I think they tried to double down on Sylvia and hoped that we would struggle from the outside," Chaney said. "We've been struggling shooting from the outside for a couple of games, so I guess they figured we were going to miss a couple of shots. But we were able to knock down open shots."
The way the Lady Tigers (29-7) play defense, that was more than enough to do the job against the overmatched Seminoles (24-10).
LSU has the stingiest defense in the nation, allowing fewer than 50 points per game. Florida State was held to a season-low 18 points in the first half and then went nearly 5 minutes at the start of the second half without scoring.
The Seminoles fell behind 37-18 on Chaney's fastbreak layup. She also hit two of her four 3-pointers in the run, finishing 9-for-16 from the field.
"That makes all the difference in the world, especially when you're playing somebody that gives Sylvia so much attention," acting coach Bob Starkey said. "They had two or three guys on her. I thought Quianna did a tremendous job finding the open seams. It wasn't like Florida State didn't know she was capable of scoring. Quianna did a great job moving without the basketball."
The Lady Tigers coasted from there and advanced to play top-seeded Connecticut (32-3) in Monday night's regional final. The Huskies beat fourth-seeded North Carolina State 78-71 in the opening game.
Earlier this season, UConn snapped LSU's 43-game home winning streak with a 72-71 victory Feb. 11.
Starkey, who took over the team after Pokey Chatman abruptly resigned March 7 amid allegations of improper conduct with a former player, has the Lady Tigers within one win of their fourth straight trip to the Final Four.
"I'm excited about our team being able to play against a quality team like Connecticut," Starkey said. "It's more about the kids than me."
Fowles had 20 points, nine rebounds and anchored LSU's defense. The only thing Fowles didn't do well was shoot free throws, going just 6-for-13. But that's fitting since Starkey compares her to a player he used to coach on LSU's men's team: Shaquille O'Neal.
Jacinta Monroe scored 15 points and Alicia Gladden added 12 for the Seminoles, who had never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament before shocking second-seeded Stanford 68-61 on the Cardinal's home floor Monday night.
Florida State was trying to join Lamar as the only double-digit seeds to make it to the regional final. Lamar did it as a No. 10 seed in 1991.
Coach Sue Semrau thought her players had a little bit of "stage fright" and rushed their shots early in the game.
"It's always interesting when you're somewhere for the first time," Semrau said. "You could tell this wasn't LSU's first time here. ... The last few weeks we really developed an identity for our program. Now we know what it will take to get us past the sweet 16."
The Seminoles shot just 35 percent for the game, turned the ball over 21 times and scored their fewest points of the season. Fowles, the leading shot blocker in LSU history, had only three but altered many other shots.
But Fowles still found plenty of room for improvement, pointing to Florida State's 22 points in the paint.
"I thought our defense was OK," she said. "It was not to the level that we usually play."
The attendance was 3,658 in an arena that seats about 15,556, as few fans from the four schools from the eastern half of the country made the long trip to California. When Florida State knocked off Stanford, there was no local team in the regional. It was the second-lowest attendance at a regional semifinal since 1997.
The Seminoles hit their first shot of the game, then missed 18 of their next 21 -- going nearly 11 minutes without a basket at one point.
Chaney hit consecutive 3-pointers to start a 13-2 run that gave the Lady Tigers a 20-8 lead with 8 minutes left in the half.
"We focused to much on Sylvia Fowles and not enough on their outside shooters," Gladden said.
LSU then went nearly 6 minutes without scoring, with Fowles missing three free throws in that span. Allison Hightower made a pair of baskets in the final 2 minutes to put the Lady Tigers up 27-18 at the break.