LSU Advances To NCAA Elite Eight With Win Over LA Tech
March 30, 2003
Stanford, Calif. - Temeka Johnson could see LSU was in trouble, so shethrew aside her protective goggles and led the Tigers to the brink of the FinalFour.
Johnson had eight points, nine assists and eight rebounds despite two brokenbones near her right eye, and Aiysha Smith scored 19 points as top-seeded LSUbeat Louisiana Tech 69-63 on Sunday in the West Regional semifinals.
Freshman Seimone Augustus scored 14 points for the Tigers (30-3), whotrailed by 17 points early in the second half before a dramatic 16-0 rally ledby Johnson.
LSU took the lead for good with 4ï¿½ minutes left, then snapped thefifth-seeded Lady Techsters' 29-game winning streak with fearless scoring downthe stretch. The Tigers also earned Bayou State superiority, even if the gamewas played way out in California.
Two-time WAC player of the year Cheryl Ford finished her career with 16points and 15 rebounds for Louisiana Tech (31-3), which hadn't lost since Dec.4. Trina Frierson scored 18 points, but the Lady Techsters lost their momentumearly in the second half and never got it back as LSU shot better than 56percent after halftime.
LSU will make its third regional final appearance Tuesday against theTexas-Minnesota winner. Tigers coach Sue Gunter has 681 career victories, butthe 61-year-old Hall of Famer has never reached the Final Four in nearly fourdecades of coaching.
Johnson's availability for the weekend's games was in question after shetook an elbow in the face last week in the Tigers' second-round game.
Johnson wore protective one-piece goggles early in the game, but shediscarded them as her shooting woes mounted. She went 1-for-8 from the field inthe first half, and her struggles were the primary reason for Louisiana Tech's33-23 halftime lead.
Karl Malone, Ford's famous father, made the trip during a two-day break inthe Utah Jazz's season to support his alma mater and his daughter. The NBA'ssecond-leading career scorer sipped lemonade and stood up to shout at theofficials as Louisiana Tech pulled ahead with Ford's powerful inside play.
LSU was disorganized and lifeless, trailing 50-33 - until Doneeka Hodges andSmith hit tough shots to start the Tigers' impressive run. Augustus scoredconsecutive baskets with eight minutes to play, cutting Louisiana Tech's leadto a point.
The Tigers took their first lead on a layup by Johnson, who scored six ofher eight points in succession. Her jumper with 4:32 left gave LSU a lead itnever lost.
It was just the second meeting in the last 12 years between Louisiana'sperennial basketball powers. Maples Pavilion was less than half-full when thegame began, but the traveling fans and the locals both cheered a well-playedgame in the second half.
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
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