And rightfully so.
By the finish the strategy paid off, and a Lady Tigers group that hangs its' hat on hard-nosed defense was unable to hold back Penn State for the long haul, losing 90-80 in a game that wasn't decided until the final minutes.
"The tempo of the game, we wanted to run when we felt we had numbers," LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. "Penn State is a very explosive team with very explosive guards.
"So their transition offense, we missed some key offensive assignments, and when you play a team like Penn State, they are going to make you pay for those defensive mistakes."
Forward Mia Nickson scored 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds and backup forward Ariel Edwards added 15 points off the bench, but neither came close to touching the final line of sophomore guard Maggie Lucas.
After scoring 19 points in the first half, Lucas added 11 points across the final 20 minutes and knocked down free throws when it mattered - hitting all 11 from the charity stripe, including eight in the final 1:10 in the second half.
From start to finish, Lucas was at the root of LSU's problems, whether they left her one-on-one or showed her extra attention and allowed others to roam free.
"The first half, they were playing that zone, and Maggie was able to get free," Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. "In the second half, they played her a little tighter, which opened up some things in the inside. We went inside a little bit more, and we got going in transition a little bit more.
"In the first half, it just flowed Maggie's way."
|Caldwell had to dig LSU out of an early hole|
In the beginning, a nail biter seemed far from any version of reality that was about to play out.
The Lady Tigers turned the ball over on its first four possessions and didn't score until more than three minutes into the game.
That gave Penn State the chance to jump out to a 9-0 lead, which swelled to 14-7 after four quick points from Nickson and a floater in the lane by Lucas.
Then LSU woke up, reeling off an 11-2 run that gave the Lady Tigers its first lead at 15-14.
The back-and-forth continued, and LSU took a 37-36 halftime lead despite serious struggles early in the contest.
"We were still in the game, even with Maggie's (Lucas) 19 points in the first half or whatever she had, and we had the lead at halftime," LSU senior forward LaSondra Barrett said.
In a game that included 10 ties, LSU took its largest lead early in the second half, going up 50-44 after putting together a 9-2 run capped off with a 3-point bucket by Theresa Plaisance.
That's about when things went south - again - for the Lady Tigers.
Penn State reeled off six straight points to tie the game at 50-50, then took a six-point lead at 67-61 with 5:25 left.
The Tigers cut it to 67-65, but the number of ties would not move beyond 10.
Penn State quickly pushed the lead to eight, and while LSU was able to get as close as three points twice after that, the Nittany Lions came up with clutch buckets, became turnover free and looked nearly flawless from the line - which was good enough to punch a ticket to Kingston, R.I., for Sunday's regional semifinals.
"You have to give credit to Penn State," Barrett said. "They have some amazing guards who are great shooters. They are a running team and they like to push it up and down.
"It is hard to find three guards who are all three shooters while you sprint back on defense too. You have to give credit to them. Some of it was missed assignments on our part, but you have to credit Penn State."
Barrett's nine made free throws made her LSU's all-time leader with 497, surpassing Sylvia Fowles' 494.
The Sweet 16 trip would have been the 13th for LSU, a program that fell victim to a second round departure in the NCAA Tournament in 2009, 2010 and 2012. In 2011, the Lady Tigers did not make the NCAA field.
"I mean you always want to go further than the second round, but I don't look at this particular loss as a frustration to my career," Barrett said. "I am extremely proud of our team to battle all the adversity that has been sent our way and for pulling through.
"To me it is a lot bigger than basketball, it is more personal with these girls because of the relationship we have and knowing that everyone's heart is in it."