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LSU cruises to ninth straight victory despite Fowles' injury

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- LSU star Sylvia Fowles asked coach Van Chancellor several times if she could re-enter the game after tweaking her right knee.

Each time, Chancellor told her only if the lead got to single digits. Quianna Chaney, Allison Hightower and Erica White never let it happen.

Chaney scored 19 points, Hightower added 14 off the bench and White had her best all-around game of the season. Together, they lifted the eighth-ranked Lady Tigers to their ninth consecutive victory, 85-71 over Florida on Sunday.

LSU (18-3, 7-0 Southeastern Conference) made this one look easy, opening up a double-digit lead in the first 4 minutes, pushing it to 20 points early in the second half and then cruising the rest of the way.

The only concern was Fowles' knee.

"I think it's OK," Chancellor said. "She just got it hit. That's the first time it's really been hit that hard. Within five minutes, she was ready to go. By then, we were up 20-something. I just couldn't see taking a chance on that."

A 6-foot-6 All-America center and the team's leading scorer and rebounder, Fowles banged her knee early in the second half. It was the same knee she had surgery on Dec. 21.

She missed two games -- including LSU's last loss, a 67-56 setback at Middle Tennessee -- but returned with four double-doubles in the last seven games.

She finished with nine points and three rebounds Sunday, both season lows. Fowles eventually re-taped her knee, pulled up her black wrap and then sat the rest of the way.

LSU did just fine without her.

Chaney was 7-of-12 from the field, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range.

White finished with a season-high 16 points, 11 of them in the second half, and added six rebounds and seven assists.

Hightower made four consecutive baskets in the second half -- a running one-hander, a 3-pointer, a jumper and a driving layup -- that pushed the lead to 72-45 with about 8 minutes remaining.

LSU coasted from there, winning for the 14th time in 15 games. The Tigers have won eight of the last nine against Florida.

Marshae Dotson had 20 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Gators (14-8, 3-4), who have lost three of their last four. Depree Bowden added 15 points and Sha Brooks chipped in 12.

Without Fowles roaming the lane, Florida trimmed the 27-point lead to 14 in the closing minutes, but couldn't get any closer.

"Does the game feel different without Sylvia in there? She's the best in the country. Absolutely, it felt different," Gators coach Amanda Butler said.

Florida was never really in this one.

LSU scored the first seven points of the game and was up 12-1 before Florida even made a shot. The Gators were 0-for-3 from the field and had four turnovers in the first 4 minutes.

"When you're playing a great team like LSU, it's hard to come back from that," Bowden said.

It only got worse from there.

LSU beat Florida up and down the floor and got just about any shot it wanted. The Tigers also were hot from outside, hitting four early 3-pointers and finishing with eight from behind the arc.

"Those first four minutes were ultimately too much for us to overcome," Butler said. "They were too good for us to give them that kind of start and for us to not have a better start."