In a flurry of three-point shots, the Lady Govs clawed their way back from seven double-digit deficits. Austin Peay connected on 11-of-24 three-point attempts, but in the end LSU's aggressive defense and blinding transition offense was too much for the Lady Govs.
"I am pleased with the way our kids cut the head off the snake," said LSU head coach Pokey Chatman. "They did a good job of taking care of (Gerlonda) Hardin. But that team was much more than just No. 52, but anyone could see that with the way they shot the three."
Hardin, Austin Peay's leading scorer, was reduced to a mere 12 points before fouling out of the contest late in the second half. She said LSU's defense was too much in the paint.
"I expected a double team, but never a triple team," Hardin said. "I think it was their gameplan to double and triple me on the offensive end of the floor then get me in foul trouble on the other."
The Lady Govs' hot-hand from the outside consisted of one high-arching floater after another that found it's way into the basket.
"It was very frustrating," said Seimone Augustus on Austin Peay's three-point shooting. We thought we were doing a good job of contesting their shots. We would get a hand in their face and tried to make them change their shots, but the ball kept going in."
LSU led 40-30 at the half and found itself leading by only five points, 44-39, with 17:06 left to play.
"When they got it to five, we said we had to maintain the momentum," Johnson said. "We had already seen it earlier with Maryland, anything can happen when the other team gets the momentum of the game. We maintained our composure and intensity and played our game."
The game tightened a bit when the Lady Govs got it back to nine points, 54-45, at the 13:52 mark after trailing by as many as 13.
"We knew we needed to get some stops," Augustus said. "They made a run at us and we made a defensive stand and then got some good shots off."
Blackston bragged on his team's ability to keep some pressure on the Tigers, especially in such a hostile environment. A crowd of nearly 6,000 was on hand, most of them very partial Lady Tiger fans.
"I am really proud of our team," said Austin-Peay head coach Andy Blackston. "We gave a
tremendous effort and got it to five points twice in the second half. We were only down 10 points at the half and our team really responded well to adversity.
"Our team showed a lot of heart in a tough situation," Blackston said. "I mean, what a draw? To have to play LSU, a national power from the best conference in the country and on the their home floor, that's tough."
Chatman said her team's preparation had a lot to do with the way LSU was able to respond to Austin Peay's run.
"The thing that has made this team successful is how they prepare for a game," Chatman said. "Some folks don't like having a week and a half off, especially with a not so good effort against Vanderbilt in our last game in the SEC Tournament. But our did team did a great job of working very hard to prepare for this game tonight."
Johnson and teammates felt they needed to get back on the floor.
"We were just anxious to play," Johnson said. "It has been almost two weeks. We were just really excited to play."
When asked was her team motivated facing the 13th-seeded Lady Govs, Chatman dismissed the thought.
"If you need motivation at this time of year, you shouldn't be a scholarship athlete," Chatman said. "If you have to be motivated, then you shouldn't be here at all."
It took a while for LSU to find it's rhythm on the offensive end, but when it did the Lady Govs could do little to combat it.
"My shot wasn't falling early," Johnson said. "So I felt like I needed to step it up somewhere else on the floor. But I still had to continue shooting the ball because if I didn't they would concentrate on Seimone and Doneeka."
And step up she did. Although Johnson finished 17 points her 12 assists were the strongest part of her game, dishing mostly to Augustus, who finished with a game-high 21 points.
"I just didn't hit shots early," said Augustus, who scored just two points in the first 12 minutes. "I just wasn't on my game."
Blackston said his team had their hands full defending LSU's star players especially in transition. However, he said it was 13 points from Hanna Biernacka and 11 by Tillie Willis that proved to be most costly to the Lady Govs.
"We just couldn't stop them," Blackston said. "We wanted to focus on stopping Hodges, Augustus and Johnson. We did a pretty good job on Hodges, she only scored seven points, but we need their role players not to play well and they did."
Johnson said LSU's blitzkrieg type attack on offense is based purely on the experience with other teammates on the hardwood.
"Run!" said Johnson describing LSU's high-energy, fastbreak offense. "It comes from us knowing each other and knowing our game and where to throw the ball. Knowing when and where to thread the needle."
As fast-paced as the game appeared, LSU scored only eight fastbreak points. The real battle was won in the paint, where the Lady Tigers outscored their opponent 44-10. Also a plus, LSU committed just nine turnovers, offset by Austin Peay's 21.
"I am especially proud of only nine turnovers," Chatman said. "And 44 points in the paint, that is Lady Tiger basketball."
"We tried to show more of a presence in the post on offense and defense," said sophomore forward Wendlyn Jones. "But we need to step up our rebounding down low."
Kera Bergeron led Austin Peay with 20 points, 18 of which came from beyond the arch. Cassandra Peek and Hardin each scored 12, with Peek's point all coming from three-pointers.
"I had some open looks and was able to knock down some," Bergeron said. "I think I missed a couple of crucial ones that were big momentum for us. I think we did all right from the arch. We just didn't hit enough I guess."
Austin Peay opened the second half with a 7-2 run and cut LSU's lead to five, 42-37, on a 3-pointer by Peek two minutes in. It was as close as the Lady Govs would get.
LSU, in its sixth straight tournament appearance, was playing its first home game in the tournament since hosting the first and second rounds in 2000. The Lady Tigers are now 9-1 at home in the tournament, including seven straight wins.
Austin Peay, which won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament title, had won five in a row.