Tigers hope to punch ticket tonight

A seventh straight trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 will be on the line as the third-seeded LSU Lady Tigers seek an upset bid of No. 7 Louisville in the second round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament at 8:30 p.m. CDT Tuesday in front of an expected festive atmosphere in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

“It’s such a pleasure to be here today and be in the second round with a team that has accomplished so much,” LSU head coach Van Chancellor said. “There are special teams. Last year’s team was special because of how far it advanced, and this is a special team because of how much it’s done with its experience level and how much they’ve accomplished this season.”

LSU fans will have one last chance to see a glimpse of the 2009 Lady Tigers in the Maravich Center as the squad advanced to the second round for the 12th straight season with a 69-59 beating of Green Bay on Sunday night. Allison Hightower led an offensive explosion with a career-high 26 points as LSU posted its highest point output since Dec. 20 at Centenary.

Hightower poured in 20 points in the first stanza, which were the most in a half by an LSU player in an NCAA Tournament game since Marie Ferdinand dropped 20 points against Purdue in the 2001 second round. Hightower was lifted late due to leg cramps but once again proved to be a force on both ends of the floor and set the tone for LSU’s seventh victory in the past eight games.

“She’s really carried us lately,” Chancellor said. “It’s been amazing. We’re going to need her because we’re going to have to score to defeat them. They’re not a team that you can just defend to win. We’ll have to have the same superwoman effort out of her.”

Tuesday’s game will officially be the last for Kristen Morris in the Maravich Center. Morris, LSU’s lone senior, grabbed a career-high 16 boards – the most by an LSU player this season – and added 13 points for her first double-double of the season against Green Bay.

Morris’ play down the stretch has been spectacular. LSU is 8-1 since the senior returned to the starting lineup on Feb. 5 at Arkansas. In the Lady Tigers’ last eight games, Morris has averaged a team-high 6.4 rebounds.

Louisville is enjoying its best season in school history with a 30-4 overall record and a second-place finish in the Big East regular season and tournament. Only top-ranked Connecticut had a better season in the league, and the Cardinals feature one of the nation’s premier players in National Player of Year candidate Angel McCoughtry.

“We’re facing a really tough challenge tomorrow night,” Chancellor said. “Louisville has a great team. They have everything – great defense, they run it and they have a great player who I think will be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft this year.”

McCoughtry, a 6-foot-1 senior, averages a team-best 23.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Defensively, her 4.4 steals per contest are tops among all players nationally.

“Angel McCoughtry is a special talent,” Chancellor added. “She can pull up and shoot over people and doesn’t need any help getting her shot. We have to find some way to prevent her from having a monster game.”

Louisville, the No. 3 seed in the Raleigh Regional, thumped 14th-seeded Liberty, 62-42, in the first round. They represent the first top 10 team to come to the Maravich Center in an NCAA Tournament game since LSU upset No. 8 Notre Dame in 1999.

The winner of the LSU-Louisville contest will play the winner of seventh-seeded South Dakota State and second-seeded Baylor on Saturday in the regional semifinal of the Raleigh Regional. The game time will be announced later.

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