Attempts to Write Off LSU Are Premature

Times Staff Writer

It’s not often Louisiana State beats interstate rival Louisiana Tech in women’s basketball.

But the Tigers had a good roar in the NCAA West Regional, overcoming a 17-point second-half deficit to pull out a 69-63 victory over the Lady Techsters before 3,281 on Sunday.

On an unseasonably warm afternoon that made Maples Pavilion feel more like an oven than an arena, the fifth-seeded Lady Techsters’ 29-game winning streak evaporated because they couldn’t hold off the Tigers or hold onto the ball (25 turnovers) at crucial times.

LSU (30-3), seeded No. 1 in the West, will go after its first Final Four berth Tuesday when it takes on No. 2 Texas, a 73-60 winner over Minnesota.


“I want to congratulate LSU. They looked like a No. 1 seed, and I think they’ll do well from here on out,” said Louisiana Tech Coach Kurt Budke, whose team finished 31-3. “I’m so proud of our team and what they accomplished this year. But you can’t have 25 turnovers and expect to beat a great team like LSU.”

Louisiana Tech and LSU last met in 1999 -- also in a NCAA West regional semifinal -- and the Lady Techsters prevailed, 73-52.

In the first half it appeared little had changed four years later.

From the outset, the Lady Techsters locked up the boards and controlled the tempo with the inside dominance of Cheryl Ford (16 points, 15 rebounds) and Trina Frierson (18 points). To make matters worse, LSU couldn’t stop Louisiana Tech guard Tasha Crain, who drove through the middle of the Tigers’ defense for several easy layups.

By the end of the first half the Tigers, down 33-23, looked frazzled. When a 15-foot jumper by Toya George put Louisiana Tech, 50-33, with 14:31 left to play in the second half, the outcome appeared clear.

But suddenly, yet subtly, the momentum changed. LSU, led by Aiysha Smith (19 points) and Seimone Augustus (14 points), went on a 16-0 run and cut the Lady Techsters’ edge to one.

Then, with 5:22 left, the Tigers took their first lead, at 57-56, on a 12-foot jump shot by Doneeka Hodges. Louisiana Tech tied the score one more time, but never regained the lead.

LSU Coach Sue Gunter said the difference was the momentum her team got from its defense. “You could just see the confidence grow,” she said.