Lady Tigers advance to fifth straight Final Four

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2008

LSU’s “Drive for Five” will continue in Tampa, as the Lady Tigers women’s basketball team became the second team in history to advance to five-straight NCAA Women’s Final Fours, 56-50, over top-seeded and second-ranked North Carolina.

The New Orleans Region’s Most Outstanding Player, senior Sylvia Fowles, scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to guide her seven fellow seniors and first-year LSU head coach Van Chancellor to his first career national semifinal in his 20th collegiate season.

After making four NCAA Elite 8 appearances at Ole Miss, the four-time WNBA World Champion and Olympic coach finally added the elusive title to his long resume.

LSU will face the winner of top-seeded Tennessee and second-seeded Texas A&M on Sunday, April 6, in Tampa, Fla. Game times are 6 and 8:30 p.m. CDT with the pairings to be determined.

Connecticut is the only other NCAA Women’s Basketball team to advance to five-straight Final Fours (2000-2004). LSU is in search of its first national semifinal victory.

The Lady Tigers, who came in to the game with the fourth-worst free-throw percentage in tournament play, made 12-of-15 in the final 3:46 to bury keep the Tar Heels from getting any closer than four in the last six minutes.

Fowles, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, made 10-of-18 shots and added five blocks on the defensive end to will the Lady Tigers past North Carolina in front of a friendly crowd of 5,067 at the New Orleans Arena.

LSU’s Quianna Chaney added 13 points and four assists, while point guard Erica White was 6-for-6 from the line to finish with eight points, eight rebounds and four assists. Guard RaShonta LeBlanc hit the most important shot of the game, a three pointer from the right wing with 4:30 to play that put LSU ahead by seven, 44-37, with 4:30 left.

North Carolina center LaToya Pringle gave the Lady Tigers’ top-ranked defense all it could handle, scoring 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting before fouling out in the closing seconds.

Much like LSU’s regional semifinal win over Oklahoma State, one player wasn’t enough to stop this team. The rest of the Tar Heels starting five combined for 7-of-34 shooting and only 17 points. Senior Erlana Larkins was held to five points with 11 rebounds, while Rashanda McCants added nine points and nine rebounds. Jessica Breland came off the bench to added eight points and nine rebounds in 24 minutes.

LSU finished 20-of-53 shooting (37.7 percent), while North Carolina was 20-of-59 (33.9 percent). LSU missed its first five free throws, but hit 12 when it really counted.

LSU led 24-21 at the half.