ORANGE CRUSH: LSU 68, Tenn. 58

BATON ROUGE – A fan sitting courtside at the Maravich Center proudly hoisted a home made sign prominently into the air stating: "We have waited 10 months and six days for this night."

Referring to Tennessee's last second 52-50 win over LSU in last season's national semifinal, Lady Tigers fans and players alike got their wish Thursday. Before an LSU women's hoops record crowd of 15,233, the No. 1 ranked Lady Tigers bested No. 5 Tennessee 68-58 and put a stranglehold on the SEC regular season title.

 

For the first time in 39 games, the Lady Vols (18-4, 8-1 SEC) lost an SEC regular season contest. The win was the first for LSU (22-1, 9-0) over Tennessee since topping the Lady Vols 78-62 in the finals of the 2003 SEC Tournament.

 

Behind a 25-point effort by Seimone Augustus, LSU shot a sparkling 52-percent from the field. On the flip side, the Lady Tigers frustrated Tennessee offensively most of the evening. LSU limited the Lady Vols to a paltry 31-percent shooting mark on the night.

 

"I was very disappointed in our lack of competitiveness in the game today," said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. "I want to give LSU all the credit for how they played and how aggressive they played. I will just tell you that you can't shoot 31-percent and beat a team like this on the road."

 

Shyra Ely, Tennessee's top player, did not register a rebound all the while scoring just six points. Shanna Zolman was the only Lady Vol in double digits with 21 points, including a trio of three pointers.

 

"These kids came out and established themselves on both ends of the court in the first few minutes of the game," Chatman said.

 

Tennessee managed to outrebound the Lady Tigers 44-35, but LSU dominated in the paint outscoring the Lady Vols 34-14, plus an eye-popping 10 blocked shots.

 

"We didn't win the war on the boards, but we won the war in the paint," Chatman said. "That's a stat we always look at."

 

On this night, it was more prominent than others. Although Sylvia Fowles managed only six points, the 6-6 center brought down 17 rebounds and blocked five shots.

 

"I think she really controlled a lot of the defensive side," Summitt said. "I thought she made a difference with her ability and size to block shots. It is a devastating blow when the ball ends up in the fourth row of the bleachers."

 

With the star power of Augustus and Fowles, the most valuable performance of the game may go slightly overlooked. Scholanda Hoston went 6-of-12 from the floor, scored 16 points, including a trio of crucial three-pointers, and chipped in the best defensive effort of the game against Ely providing just the park LSU needed to pull away.

 

With the score tied 39-39 with 13:12 left to play, Hoston went wild, hitting LSU's only three three-pointers of the game and began a 17-4 from which Tennessee would never recover.

 

(Scholanda) Hoston is their only three-point shooter and we couldn't seem to find her out of our zone, which is amazing to me," Summitt said. "We had a tough time defending out of our man."

 

While it was Hoston's offense that wowed the capacity crowd, it was her defense on Ely that impressed the junior shooting guard.

 

"It's just our staple," Hoston said. "We know we have to play good defense night in and night out because that's what's been carrying us this whole season. We take pride in our defense."

 

From the opening horn, LSU grabbed momentum bolting out to a 7-1 lead. Tennessee clawed back, but found itself trailing 15-5 after a layup by Augustus at the 11:51 mark in the first half.

 

Tennessee closed it to two points at 16-14 with 8:19 left to play on a Loree Moore jumper and finally pulled even with the nation's top ranked team on a Sade Wiley-Gatewood three-pointer with 47 ticks left on the clock.

 

Fowles knocked down a pair of free throws giving LSU a 27-25 lead, but Wiley Gatewood hit a deep trey at the buzzer to give Tennessee's its first lead of the game – 28-27 – heading into the locker room.

 

"We felt fortunate in the first half knowing that we went into halftime with a one-point lead despite how we played," Zolman said.

 

It was too close to call for the first six minutes of the second half as teams exchanged leads three times. But it wasn't until Hoston's three-point barrage and LSU's overpowering offensive assault that the Lady Tigers grabbed complete control of the game.

 

"It was key that when they went to their press (with eight minutes left) we made one pass, a second pass and shot a layup," Chatman said. "That gave us some energy and some enthusiasm and some confidence."

 

The closest Tennessee would come don the stretch seven points, trailing 65-58 with 38 seconds left after Zolman banked in a three-pointer from the top of the key. After a few desperation fouls by Tennessee, the celebration commenced as the final seconds ticked away.

 

"They just exploited what our weaknesses were tonight, what we didn't do very well in the second half," Zolman said.

 

Temeka Johnson finished the night scoring just nine points, but she dished out nine assists. Both Hoston and Augustus, who was 12-of-19 from the floor, each played all 40 minutes. LSU was whistled for just seven fouls in the game, compared to 18 by the Lady Vols.


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