BATON ROUGE, La. -- Hosting the inaugural Sue Gunter Classic in honor of its late Hall of Fame coach, LSU took no chances in falling victim to an opening-round upset.
The Lady Tigers (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) picked a completely overmatched opponent and routed Houston Baptist 93-31 on Tuesday night.
LSU (8-0) started with a 16-0 run, added another 16-0 run before halftime and then widened the lead to as many as 65 points in the second half despite third-year coach Van Chancellor, himself a Hall of Famer, using his bench liberally.
"We should have won by that margin and we did," said Chancellor, off to his best start at LSU. "We did what we were supposed to do, and that's good."
Houston Baptist (2-8) lost by 69 points to Duke and by 79 to TCU earlier this season.
"Coach [Chancellor] has been like another dad to me," said Houston Baptist coach Todd Buchanan, who became friends with Chancellor when the latter was coaching the WNBA's now defunct Houston Comets. "I just wish Dad hadn't whipped us so hard."
LSU advanced to Wednesday's championship game against North Carolina A&T, which beat Louisiana-Lafayette 95-78.
Coming off a 57-33 win over New Orleans on Sunday when it shot just 35 percent from the field, LSU had few scoring lapses against Houston Baptist.
The Lady Tigers shot 53.4 percent and committed only eight turnovers, despite the fact that no LSU starter played more than 19 minutes.
Point guard Latear Eason had 12 points, five assists and three steals in just 17 minutes. She and forward Taylor Turnbow led LSU in scoring, as five Lady Tigers reached double figures and all 12 players who got in the game scored.
"Latear Eason was outstanding tonight," Chancellor said.
LSU's defense was just as impressive as its season-high scoring output.
The Lady Tigers limited Houston Baptist to 26.5 percent shooting, forced 28 turnovers, had 21 steals and dominated the rebounding, 53-25.
"It was the most athletic, quick, lengthy team we've faced," Buchanan said. "Everyone on that team is an athlete, and that's the thing we tried to simulate in our practices. Sometimes we'd play 6-on-5."
At times it looked like LSU had an extra player on the court.
For a few moments at least, Eason was thinking shutout.
"It's hard to completely shut down a team. We knew they would score at some point," Eason said seriously. "We just wanted to come out and play hard."
LSU's reserves gave a strong effort, led by 11 points from junior guard Erica Williams, a transfer from Southern Mississippi who scored her first points as a Lady Tiger. Backups Jasmine Nelson and Swayze Black each had a team-high eight rebounds.
Getting valuable minutes off the bench could prove even more crucial for LSU in the future.
Chancellor announced Tuesday that backup guard Taylor Booze, who injured her knee Sunday, is out for the season. Andrea Kelly, another reserve guard, has been sidelined with a nagging foot injury.
"Without Kelly and Booze we're thin at certain positions," Chancellor said. "We've got to stay healthy. [Adrienne] Webb and others, like Williams and Lutley, have to be ready."
Gunter coached LSU from 1983-2004 and won 708 games in her 40-year career, just the third woman's coach to win 700 games at the time. Coach of the 1980 Olympic team which did not play in Moscow because of a U.S. boycott, Gunter died in 2005 and was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame later that year.