TOE THE LINE: UConn 72, Lady Tigers 71

BATON ROUGE, La. – Baseball is usually the sport described as a game of inches.

That is the case for basketball as well. Unfortunately, for Porsha Phillips and the No. 7 ranked Lady Tigers, they found out the hard way on Sunday.

 

Sure enough, Phillips hit a buzzer-beater against No. 5 Connecticut on Sunday. Trailing by three at the time, it looked if the game was heading for overtime. However, her right toe was on the three-point line when she took the final shot.

 

Final score – UConn 72, LSU 71.

 

"I was really confident about the shot," Phillips said. "I took it and I thought it was a three (pointer). It counted as a two. There were like three seconds on the shot clock, and I just shot it and it went in."

 

Quianna Chaney tied the game when she hit a running baseline jumper with 20 seconds remaining in the game.

 

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma chose not to call a timeout. Instead, he let point guard Renee Montgomery take the ball up the floor. The Lady Huskies' Tina Charles set a perfect pick on LSU's Erica White leaving Montgomery wide open for the three.

Montgomery buried the three and the looked to be over.

 

"When the screen came, they went behind it so I found an opening and took it," Montgomery said. "Coach (Auriemma) told me in the shoot around if they ever go behind the screen to take the shot."

 

But White hustled the ball up the floor and dished it over to Phillips at the top of the key. Phillips' shot went in as the buzzer sounded. While LSU coach Pokey Chatman and the Lady Tiger fans celebrated, the officials immediately went to the replay and ruled the shot counted as a two.

 

"I knew the way the game was unfolding that the shot was probably going to go in," Auriemma said. "And it did. Luckily her foot was on the line."

 

Montgomery said she knew the shot was a two when it left Phillips' hand.

 

"I knew her foot was on the line because right when she shot it the referee put up the two-point signal," Montgomery said. "I figured the referee saw it right when it happened and that she wasn't going to change her mind after that."

 

The loss broke LSU's 43 game homecourt winning streak dating back to a 61-55 defeat at the hands of Vanderbilt on Feb. 19, 2004. The streak was the longest homecourt winning streak in the nation. Chatman wasted little time in addressing the end of the streak.

 

"It's over," she said. "We'll start a new one."

 

Lost in the excitement of the game's closing seconds was the play of Sylvia Fowles, who finished the game with 22 points, 17 rebounds and three blocked shots while shooting 9 of 15 from the floor.

 

Three other Lady Tigers finished in double figures as Quianna Chaney scored 16, Phillips put up 12 and Allison Hightower accounted for 11. LSU (22-4) shot 44.1-percent (30 of 68) from the floor, was 7 of 8 from the free throw line and hit 4 of 8 three pointers. However, UConn (22-2) outrebounded LSU 36-34.

 

The Lady Huskies were led by Montgomery, who piled on 20 points, including a 5 of 7 clip from beyond the three-point arch. Tina Charles scored 17, Kalana Greene put up 15 points and Charde Houston accounted for a dozen. Connecticut shot a sparkling 29 of 61 (47.5-percent) from the floor, was 7 of 13 from the three-point line and made 7 of 9 free throws.

 

LSU led by as many as 12 points at two different junctures in the first half. Connecticut closed the first half on a 7-1 run and opened the second period with an 11-0 burst and led by as many as nine points four different times throughout the second half, the latest nine-point advantage coming at the 8:40 mark of the second half.

 

"It was going to be a battle," Fowles said. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy, so we had to come in with a fight. Every time we made points, they'd drive back and go up by six or they go up by seven. We had to take it possession by possession just to get back within the lead."

 

Things got off to a fast start. Fowles scored the initial points of the game on an impressive layup for a quick 2-0 lead. But Connecticut rattled off seven straight points hitting two big shots from outside the three-point line.

 

But back came LSU.

 

After another Fowles layup inside, and a Phillips floater, Roshanta Leblanc tied the game with a three-pointer from the left wing tying the game 9-9.

 

After trailing 14-13 heading into the first media timeout, the Lady Tigers came out gunning and went on a run. Hightower attempted a fadeaway jumper in the paint and was fouled. She drew kind iron and the ball rattled in. The freshman then converted the three-point play for a 20-16 LSU lead.

 

Following a Lady Huskies fastbreak layup on an White turnover, Hightower drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key as LSU extended the lead 23-18. UConn committed a turnover on the other end and possession returned to the Lady Tigers.

 

Fowles grabbed an athletic offensive rebound off a missed shot by Leblanc and put it back high off the glass for a 25-18 lead at the9:36 mark.

 

Leblanc found a lane up the middle and drove in for a contested layup. Leblanc drew the foul and made the bucket, then sank the free throw for a 27-20 LSU advantage with 8:05 left in the opening half.

 

On the other end, Fowles blocked a 31 shot and popped the ball out to White on the outlet pass. Ashley Thomas got the ball wide open at the top of the key and took a shot from beyond the three-point line. Undoubtedly out of her range, the ball banked off the glass for a three-pointer and a 10-point, 30-20 LSU lead at the 7:15 mark.

 

After a Charles jumper in the paint for Connecticut, Fowles took an inlet pass under the goal. She went up but was fouled, after which she made both free throws allowing LSU to regain a 10-point lead, 32-22.

 

On LSU's next possession, Phillips hit a long jump shot just in front of the three-point line giving the Lady Tigers their biggest lead of the game 34-22 with 5:45 left to play in the opening stanza.

 

Greene cut the lead back to 10 points with a five-foot jumper. But the Lady Tigers responded on the other end. When Chaney airballed a three-pointer from the right wing, Fowles grabbed the rebound and put it back for an easy two and a 12-point, 36-24 lead with 4:20 to go in the half.

 

UConn wasn't going quietly though.

 

Coming out of the final media timeout of the first half, LSU went cold on offense. Shots by Hightower and Leblanc rimmed out as the Lady Huskies went on a 7-1 in the closing minutes and closed the gap to a half-dozen at the halftime break.

 

LSU led 37-31 at intermission.

 

The Lady Huskies picked up the second half where they left off the first. Connecticut scored five consecutive points in the opening minute and by the 18:54 mark, the Lady Tigers' lead had been cut to one point – 37-36.

 

Renee Montgomery hit a three-pointer from the right corner with 18:07 left to play in the game giving UConn its first lead, 39-37, since a 14-13 advantage at the 14:17 mark of the first half.

 

Mel Thomas widened the lead on Connecticut's next possession when she hit a three-pointer from the right wing, raising the Lady Lady Huskies advantage to 42-37, closing out an 11-0 run. The Lady Huskies had outscored LSU 17-1 since the 4:20 mark of the first half.

 

"We started the second half after you are supposed to go into the locker room, rejuvenate, regroup and get your feet underneath you, and they start the half with and 11-0 run in two minutes and 15 seconds and it felt like two seconds," Chatman said. "You can't do that with a quality opponent and expect to be met with good results."

 

The Lady Huskies took a 44-39 lead when Greene hit a running floater in the lane. But Fowles and Chaney converted back-to-back layups off Connecticut turnovers and closed gap to a single point, down 44-43.

 

Houston widened the gap back to three points up 46-43 on a short jump shot, but Chaney re-tied the game with a long range three-pointer from the corner igniting the Maravich Center crowd.

 

But two questionable calls, or no-calls that is, led to four quick Husky points and an incensed Chatman called timeout with 14:01 left in the game and LSU trailing 50-46.

Mel Thomas gave UConn a cushion when she buried another three from virtually the same spot widening the visitors lead to seven points – 53-46 with 13:25 left to play in regulation.

 

Two Houston free throws gave the Lady Huskies a nine-point, 55-46 lead. But Hightower buried a three-pointer in response cutting the deficit to six points 55-49 at the 12:35 mark.

Connecticut took nine-point lead 58-49, which they held for several scoreless minutes.

 

But Hightower got the offense going again for LSU when she hit a turnaround, fadeaway jumper cutting the margin to seven. Then Fowles banged a layup in from high on the glass cutting the UConn lead to seven points 60-53, but two Kalana Greene free throws pushed it back to nine points, 62-53 with 8:25 left in regulation.

 

Porsha Phillips hit an open jumper from the top of the key cutting the lead back to seven, down 62-55 heading into a media timeout with 7:33 left to go in the game.

 

Phillips hit another jumper coming out of the timeout cutting into the Husky lead making it a 62-57 deficit with 7:05 to go.

 

A turnaround hook shot by Fowles got to three points – 62-69 – with 6:31 to go as the Maravich Center grew into a frenzy.

 

Chaney stole a pass from Mel Thomas under the UConn goal and took it the length of the floor for a floating layup in the lane trimming the Husky lead to a single point – 62-61 with 5:59 left in regulation.

 

Auriemma frantically called a timeout as the PMAC crowd broke out in an L-S-U.

UConn got the momentum back as Greene and Montgomery connected on back-to-back jump shots and the lead was again five points – 66-61.

 

Fowles again went to the turnaround hook shot and connected slicing into the UConn lead once again down 66-63 with just over four minutes left in the game.

 

White popped the net from the left wing coming out of a timeout with 2:45 left in the game closing the gap to a single point as LSU trailed 66-65.

 

But Montgomery drove a dagger in LSU's heart when as she drilled an NBA-range three-pointer raising the lead back to four points for the visitors – 69-65.

 

But Phillips gave LSU hope knocking down a jumper from the left wing cutting the deficit back to two points and the Lady Tigers trailed 69-67 with 1:02 left on the clock.

Trailing by two, Phillips found an open baseline and drove to the basket. Her shot however was swatted away and the ball went off her hand giving the Lady Huskies possession with 31.1. seconds left.

 

The Lady Tigers did catch a break though when UConn lost a handle on the inbound pass and White tied up the ball with a jump ball.

 

Chaney tied the game 69-69 with a floating jumper along the baseline. But Montgomery responded with a three pointer on the other end of the floor giving Connecticut a 72-69 lead with just over six seconds remaining.

 

"Her first one with two minutes left was way beyond the NBA three-point line," Auriemma said. "Her last one to win it, almost looked like the Michael Jordan one (in the 1998 NBA Finals), she dribbled, Erica (White) fell down and she backs up to knock it in. I got the game flashing in my eyes because I thought they were going to call an offensive foul, but there wasn't an offensive foul, Erica just fell down."  

 

White hustled the ball up the floor and passed on an open three-pointer opting to dish it to Phillips at the top of the key. Phillips' shot at the buzzer found the bottom of the net, but after further review, her right foot was on the line and the shot was worth only two points.


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