Lady Tigers getting it done with defense

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - One might argue that LSU has the most exciting trio of guards in the country.

Seimone Augustus, Temeka Johnson and Scholanda Hoston combine to makeup a powerful offensive machine. Johnson, arguably the best point guard in women's college hoops, along with, what most people would say is the nation's best all-around player in Augustus, plus the sharp-shooting Hoston, this threesome can generate a great deal of offense.

What most people want to talk about when they speak of LSU they want to talk offense. Johnson can make a high-powered fastbreak look simple as pie and Augustus' precision on drilling the turnaround, 15-foot, baseline jumper is downright scary. But if you ask coach Pokey Chatman or anyone of the players on the team about what is the strength of this squad, all will answer with one word – defense.

While the Lady Tigers do possess some of the most exciting offensive players in the country, it is a suffocating defense that has propelled LSU into the position of being the nation's No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

If you don't believe this, just ask teams they have faced so far this year.

Auburn coach Nell Fortner and Georgia's Andy Landers thought so as did Kentucky's Mickie Demoss and Sunday, Stetson coach Dee Romine learned – the hard way.

Her Stetson team was making its' first-ever trip to the Big Dance. In doing so, the 16th-seeded Lady Hatters were paired up with the Lady Tigers. Things were awfully defensive on the Stetson end of the floor most of the day. LSU held the Lady Hatters to just 36 points, a new record low for LSU in the NCAA Tournament, and reduced the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament champions to a stingy 24.1-percent shooting on the day.

"With their size, quickness, length and athleticism, they have very good matchups at every position," Romine said. "We knew it was going to be a tough game today."

Stetson hung with the No. 1 seeded Lady Tigers for nearly eight minutes and actually led LSU 8-6 at the 15:34 mark. But the lady Tigers turned up the intensity on the defensive end turning a plethora of Stetson turnovers into points on the other end.

"Every possession was critical a critical possession as we got further and further behind," Romine said. "We started pressing I think. We didn't play very well but I think you have to give a lot of credit to LSU."

Romine said the Lady Tigers extended their defense to lengths to which her team was not accustomed.

"Their defensive intensity really stretches you," Romine said. "We typically try and initiate at the arch, but we were five steps beyond the arch, which obviously affected our shots and our spacing on the floor. I would say that was the point at which I knew it was going to be a long game."

Chatman said she knows what her team can do offensively, but stressing defense is what she believes is inevitably going to take her team the farthest.

"We wanted to wreak havoc on the defensive end and I thought we did a good job," Chatman said. "One of our managers told me that each kid had at least one deflection."

In facing a team of the caliber of Stetson and leading by as many as 37 points twice in the game, one can imagine how difficult it could be to maintain focus for 40 minutes. Augustus said she was happy with the way her squad maintained that intensity.

"For us, it's all about goals," she said. "We didn't focus on the score. Our ultimate goal is to win a national championship. We want to finish games regardless of the score."

LSU squeezed Stetson defensively to the point of near submission allowing just two Lady Hatters to score in double figures. Kristy Brown led Stetson with 17 points and Neferiti Walker put up 13. Only two other players scored combining for six points. The Stetson bench failed to score in the game.

"We didn't want to give them time to run down the clock," Johnson said. "Coach told us to pick them up three-fourths of the way. She told me to be smart, but don't pick up a foul."

Brown, who played her last game in a Stetson uniform Sunday, said she could not get over how big and fast LSU's post players were – especially freshman Sylvia Fowles.

"That No. 31 (Sylvia Fowles) is a great defender," Brown said. "She is really tall and she knows how to use her body. I was having trouble getting my post ups, and I was missing my shots.

"They are really tall and it was hard to post up," Brown added. "I thought I had good position, but they are really quick. When I would get the pass it would get stolen. So I thought to myself that I really have to hold my position and I would go for my shot but she (Fowles) was really tall and really good."

LSU is set to face the Arizona Lady Wildcats tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, live from Thompson-Boling Arena in Knxville, Tenn. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

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