Hightower scored a career-high 26 points – 20 in the first half – off a variety of shots, but it was her slashing to the goal and knocking down baskets from the outside that kept the Phoenix in a hole all night.
“I just wanted to stay aggressive on offense,” Hightower said. “I was making some good reads. My teammates set me some great screens to get me open.
“It was just a total team effort. I wasn’t trying to do anything that I haven’t been doing. The shots just went in. I kept driving to the basket and wanted to keep that up and get to the free throw line.”
Hightower played lights out in hitting 8 of 13 from the floor, and going 8 of 10 from the charity stripe.
Hightower was the catalyst for LSU, but she got help from LSU's inside tandem of Kristen Morris and LaSondra Barrett. Morris went for a double-double with 13 points and 16 rebounds, while Barrett chipped in 13 points and grabbed seven boards.
“I thought Kristen Morris was outstanding,” said LSU head coach Van Chancellor. “She had 16 rebounds and 13 points. What a way to play. (LaSondra) Barrett had 13 points and seven rebounds and I thought it was a quiet game for her tonight, but it was still 13 and seven.”
LSU (19-10) was in a battle late in the first half and turned a 31-25 lead with 2:26 left in the half into a 10 point halftime margin with four straight points from Hightower.
Shooting was the difference, not only in the first half, but also for the game as LSU knocked down 22 of 44 shots from the floor for 50 percent, and hit its only two 3-point attempts courtesy of Hightower.
Green Bay, meanwhile, had problems from the field and converted only 35 percent in the first 20 minutes, and finished 38 percent for the game.
“Give LSU a lot of credit,” said Green Bay head coach Matt Bollant. “Earlier today, our radio guy asked me to compare (Allison) Hightower to someone in our league, and I kind of hesitated for awhile, thinking that there is no one in our league like her. She's special, and she was really special tonight. I thought she was a difference-maker.”
LSU stretched the halftime lead to 16 with six straight points to start the second half, and the Phoenix put an end to the run with a basket by Kayla Tetschlag, who entered the contest averaging 6.9 points a game, but topped that mark in the first half alone as she scored 11.
The lead eventually went to 20 at 50-30, but a 13-4 run by the Phoenix cut the margin to 11 at 54-43 with 7:15 remaining.
That was as close as Green Bay got until the 1:05 mark when Erin Temple hit a pair of free throws to make it 63-54. However, LSU's Latear Eason and Barrett both hit a pair of free throws when LSU needed them the most to put the game away.
"Green Bay had a lot of fight about them,” Chancellor said. “They played really hard today. They never gave up. We had them by 19 or 20 and they never gave in.”
Some were a little skeptical of how LSU would handle the pressure of playing in the NCAA tournament after losing all five starters and 11 seniors from last year’s Final Four team.
That may have allowed the Phoenix to make things interesting heading down the stretch, but the Lady Tigers proved that they have grown as the season has progressed.
"We were sitting on the bench about an hour before the game and thinking about how much we were enjoying being here and that we weren't sitting over there on the first row watching other teams play here,” said Chancellor. “This team has turned it around and won a game. I don't want you ever to think that I'm not tickled with this team. I am tickled with this team.”
With the loss, Green Bay ended the season at 29-4. The Phoenix were led by Kati Harty’s 17 points and Tetschlag’s 16 off the bench.
Sixth seeded LSU will now play No. 3-seed Louisville on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. CST with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16.
Hightower cramps up
Allison Hightower battled cramps in the second half and had to be taken out for treatment late in the half, but she did return to the floor.
The junior from Arlington, Texas wasn’t available for the regularly scheduled postgame interviews because she was being treated in the training room. However, Van Chancellor said that she would be ready to go on Tuesday night.