Rutgers' lights-out shooting was only matched by their half-court defense which held the Lady Tigers at bay in every aspect. The Scarlet Knights advanced to face the winner of North Carolina and Tennessee in Tuesday's 7:30 p.m. National Championship game.
After pounding another Big East team, Connecticut, to get to the national semifinal, LSU (30-8) trailed early and never found an offensive spark. All-America center Sylvia Fowles was held to the second-lowest scoring game in her 109-game career, just five points.
Fowles was frustrated by several defenders throughout the evening, while the Lady Tigers were unable to hit the perimeter shots that fell against UConn last week in Fresno. Both she and long-range threat Quianna Chaney were 2-of-10 shooting.
LSU finished only 14-of-53 shooting, while Rutgers' 10-of-20 shooting from three-point range was nearly enough to beat the Lady Tigers on this evening. The Scarlet Knights finished 20 of 51 (39.2 percent).
Rutgers (28-7) didn't allow an LSU player to score in double figures, as point guard Erica White led LSU with nine points on 4-of-10 shooting. Freshman guard Allison Hightower had seven, while Chaney had six points.
Rutgers' guard Matee Ajavon scored 14 of her 16 points in the first half including four three pointers. Fellow guard Essence Carson scored 15 before leaving the game early in the second half with leg cramps.
The duo was more than LSU could handle in what proved to be a game decided in the first half.
It was all Rutgers in the first 20 minutes, as the Scarlet Knights hit 8-of-10 three pointers in the opening 20 minutes and left LSU in its wake. The long-range prowess was coupled with a packed-in defense against Fowles that limited the 6-6 center to 1-of-5 shooting and two points.
Ajavon hit her first three pointer along with a three-point play to put the Scarlet Knights up 6-0 in the opening moments. Three pointers by Zurich and Carson pushed the Rutgers advantage to 12-2 before the first media timeout at 15:04.
With four players packed into the paint against Fowles, White hit an 18-foot jumper to cut the lead to 18-9 midway through the half. However, it was the last time the Lady Tigers were within single digits.
Zurich answered with a free-throw line jumper and Carson hit Rutgers' sixth three-pointer to expand the lead to 23-9. White scored a pair of dribble penetration layups to bring LSU within 10, 25-15, with 6:20 left in the half.
However, Carson scored seven points and Ajavon added the other five to spark a 12-1 Rutgers run that included consecutive three pointers with less than two minutes on the first-half clock. Rutgers led 37-16.
Chaney was able to nail a second-chance three pointer, but LSU trailed 37-19 at the half -- its lowest first-half output of the season.
After cutting the lead to 12, 39-27, in the first six minutes of the second half, the Lady Tigers went without a basket for more than eight minutes. Though Rutgers didn't match its first-half performance on the offensive end, its defense was more than enough to milk the clock and earn a spot in its first National Championship game.
In the loss, LSU set a few inauspicious Women's Final Four records including fewest points scored (35), lowest field-goal percentage (26 percent) and fewest combined points (94).