March 20, 2007

It's a good thing the LSU defense is so good. The Tigers' offense can be downright awful.

In what resembled more of a playground pickup game than an NCAA second rounder, the Tigers are next. A fifth straight Sweet 16 is next for LSU.

That's because the third-seeded Tigers figured out the best way to move on. They tossed the ball in to 6-6 center Sylvia Fowles. She drastically helped LSU's numbers, hitting nine of 10 shots, and ended up with a game-high 21 points and 13 rebounds.

Remove her from the equation, and the Tigers shot just 29 percent. Still, it was good enough for a 49-43 win against 11th-seeded West Virginia.

"For teams to advance, they're going to win games like this," acting head coach Bob Starkey said. "They're going to struggle and get behind. They're going to have to overcome obstacles."

Before Monday, the biggest obstacles the Tigers had faced were away from the court. LSU coach Pokey Chatman resigned on March 7, amid allegations of inappropriate conduct with a former player. While they've handled that well, the Tigers had a tougher time dealing with the obstacles West Virginia posed.

Fowles, who was banged around inside, was visibly frustrated in the first half, so much that Starkey put her on the bench for a spell. In the second half, LSU found itself trailing by 11 before Quianna Chaney nailed a three-pointer from the corner. This prompted a momentum swing for the Tigers, who kept their composure down the stretch and made the necessary free throws to hold off the Mountaineers.


RaShonta LeBlanc, who scored 15 in the opening round, struggled from three-point range on Monday. She found other ways to help the Tigers, though. LeBlanc put up seven points but dished out four assists, mostly to Fowles. She also did a good job of crashing the boards for four rebounds. It was her defense that really made an impact. LeBlanc shut down West Virginia's second-leading scorer, LaQuita Owens, holding her to four points. Owens needed 12 shots to get that.

"Tata LeBlanc's defense on Owens was critical," Starkey said. "She just did not get any good looks. Tata did a good job of staying with her. I'm surprised she's still not with her."


The West Virginia band pulled double duty during the first and second rounds, serving as a temporary unit for Big East foe Marquette. During Monday's game, the Mountaineer music makers donned Marquette t-shirts. Once the Marquette game was over, the band headed to the other end of the court to take its place for the West Virginia-LSU game.

"Once our conference season is over, we are always supporting one another," Marquette guard Efueko Osagie-Landry said. "We were happy and delighted that they came and played for us. We would look over and they would be pointing at us; and it was great."


The Tigers won't have to put up a ton of points as long as their defense can continue to shut down teams. That won't be as easy as they move on, though. The better the teams get, the harder it is to fluster them. Fowles gives them a good chance on both ends, though. She can score pretty much at will. When she isn't getting rebounds, she's swatting them to teammates. She's not exactly easy to shoot over, either.

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