McCoughtry was as good as advertised as the senior forward scored 28 points. She hit 9 of 22 shots from the field, and was nearly automatic from the free throw line where she nailed 10 of 11 shots. That combined with 17 points from Candyce Bingham was all the Cardinals (31-4) needed to advance to their second straight regional semifinal.
“First, I’d like to congratulate LSU,” said Louisville head coach Jeff Walz. “(LSU Head Coach) Van (Chancellor) did a great job preparing his kids for our press.
“They did an outstanding job, but I was so proud of our kids because we had been told all year that we couldn’t play a half-court game,” added Walz. “We executed against a great defensive team and really hit some big shots in some big times.”
After scoring a career-high 26 points in the win over Green Bay, Hightower did all she could in scoring 21 points and playing the entire 40 minutes for the Lady Tigers (19-11). It was another heroic effort by the junior from Arlington, who battled cramps just two days earlier, and one that LSU fans have come to expect.
“I think I did the same thing I was doing Sunday,” Hightower said. “I wasn’t trying to take over or anything like that, but I was trying to stay aggressive and if the shot was there I was going to take it.”
LSU had the overwhelming majority of the 3,651 fans in attendance feeling good about their chances as the Lady Tigers led 42-41 at the 11:19 mark of the second half. But LSU had problems hitting baskets on their end of the floor and stopping the Cardinals on the other end.
Louisville outscored LSU 21-10 from that point on, and it was McCoughtry leading the charge with eight points over that stretch.
“(Louisville) kept getting offensive rebounds and I think that really hurt us, and we sent them to the free throw line way too much,” said Hightower. “They got easy points off of free throws. Once you give them those two things, you’re kind of down.”
The play of McCoughtry and Bingham is something that will bother LSU when the coaches and players look at the tape, but two key areas proved costly for LSU – rebounding and free throw shooting.
Louisville had a 39-25 advantage on the boards, and the Cardinals hit 15 of 17 from the charity stripe whereas LSU made only 12 of 21.
They made free throws. We didn’t,” Chancellor said. “That was the difference in the game. They made 15 free throws, and those were easy points. Then we didn’t rebound the ball as well as we wanted to.”
It was a disappointing loss for LSU, but with an inexperienced roster that features one senior and eight freshmen and sophomores, Chancellor could not be prouder of this group. And with 10 of 11 players returning next season, the headman knows the future looks bright for the ladies that sport the purple and gold.
“I am incredibly proud of our team,” said Chancellor. “I thought this was a great year for us. If you would have told me that when we got beat in the Final Four and would return four players and three of them never played in a pressure game and we would have had a shot to go to the Sweet 16, I wouldn’t have believed you.”