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Hightower, Barrett spark LSU's rout of North Carolina A&T

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU coach Van Chancellor threw the numbers out to his assistants: three games, less than 100 points. He never actually thought it could be done.

Well, his players did it.

LSU (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) held its third straight opponent in the 30s, beating North Carolina A&T 75-33 on Wednesday night in the championship game of the inaugural Sue Gunter Classic.

Over the last three games LSU gave up just 97 points.

"I told our staff, 'Wouldn't it be great if the next three games we didn't give up 100 points?'" Chancellor said. "I never dreamed we'd do that, but we did. That's pretty good."

After less-than-typical defensive efforts in a 73-65 overtime win at Tulane and a 77-74 win at Louisiana Tech, the Lady Tigers (9-0) spent virtually every minute of their nine practices during their end-of-semester break working on defense.

"We're swarming to the ball, trying to put a lot of pressure on the other team," said LaSondra Barrett, who had 10 points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes of play. "We're extending our defense out more, even on the post players, beyond the 3-point arc. [Assistant coach Bob] Starkey said to make it look like they're playing seven people."

The results have showed. After struggling offensively in a 57-33 win over New Orleans on Sunday, LSU overwhelmed Houston Baptist 93-31 in Tuesday's tournament opener before smothering the Aggies in the tournament final.

North Carolina A&T missed 21 of its first 22 shots, shot just 20.4 percent from the floor and committed 23 turnovers one night after beating Louisiana-Lafayette 95-78.

"LSU played really good man-to-man defense tonight, and we just couldn't get anything going against that," North Carolina A&T coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs said.

Granted, LSU hasn't been beating SEC-caliber competition lately, but its strength of schedule will improve soon enough. The Lady Tigers will face arguably their biggest test Sunday when they play at Nebraska (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP).

"Nebraska is a very good team and of course we have to go there and be focused," said LSU's Allison Hightower, named the tournament MVP after scoring 12 points. "But our defense is getting much better. We're trying to lock in and get back to playing Lady Tiger defense like it's been here for a long time."

With former All-American point guard Temeka Johnson -- now with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury -- watching from the stands, LSU bolted to a 30-4 lead and took a 38-10 lead into halftime.

For the second straight game Chancellor was able to empty his bench while still expanding the lead. All 12 players played at least 10 minutes and every Lady Tiger scored, but despite the extensive use of reserves the Aggies were never able to get closer than 23 points in the second half.

Ta'Wuana Cook led North Carolina A&T (4-5) with seven points and five rebounds.

In the tournament's consolation game Wednesday, Louisiana-Lafayette beat Houston Baptist 86-76.

The tournament was named after Gunter, who coached LSU from 1983 to 2004 and became just the third coach in women's basketball history to reach the 700-win plateau. Gunter also coached the 1980 Olympic team, which did not compete in Moscow because of a U.S.-led boycott.

Gunter died in 2005 and was posthumously enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame later that year.

"To win the first ever Sue Gunter Classic is great," said Chancellor, himself a Hall of Famer. "To win a game like we did was super. Any time you win by 42 points and play everybody 10 minutes, it's pretty good. This was a good night for us."