The Lady Tigers (22-1) needed three extra periods, a school record, before finally dismissing visiting UC-Santa Barbara in an epic clash Saturday afternoon in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
"I knew it was going to be a good game but I did not know it was going to be this good," LSU head coach Sue Gunter said.
LSU's Aiysha Smith scored 30 points and pulled down 11 rebounds allowing the Lady Tigers to remain unbeaten at home this season with a four-point victory over the No. 17-ranked Gauchos (18-4).
"I thought that was a great game," UCSB head coach Mark French said. "I think our team was really enjoying themselves. They were physically fatigued. But all in all, we had a great time. All girls grow up dreaming about those opportunities."
Fun was hardly the word LSU junior point guard Temeka Johnson used to describe Saturday's marathon.
"It can be fun sometimes but sometimes it can be frustrating because you've got to think and stay on your toes," she said.
A seesaw contest featuring 14 lead changes and 16 tied scores came down to clutch free throw shooting down the stretch by the Lady Tigers. A Brandy Richardson jumper gave UCSB an 85-84 lead with 2:46 left in the third extra period. The teams traded a pair of possessions before Johnson registered one of her game-high seven steals leading to a Seimone Augustus 16-foot jump shot from the right wing.
LSU had taken the lead for the final time in the game and distanced the margin when Smith knocked down a three-point basket with 55 seconds remaining.
"I was just hoping it would go in," Smith said.
On the other end, the Gauchos' Debby Caine made it interesting burying a long trey closing the gap to 89-88.
UC-Santa Barbara made a habit of nailing dramatic three-point buckets on Saturday. Hansen, who hit 5-of-9 three-pointers in the game, closed out the second overtime period with a clutch three-point basket as time expired knotting the score at 80. Her trey closed out an 8-2 run by the Gauchos erasing a 78-70 LSU lead.
"Our team did an awesome job of staying calm, boxing out, rebounding and making big shots down the stretch," Hansen said.
It looked as if the Lady Tigers could pull away in the third overtime, taking an 84-80 lead on a pair of baskets by Augustus and Smith. Instead, another Hansen three-pointer cut the lead to 84-83 and kept the Gauchos very much alive.
"I thought Jess Hansen just had ice water in her veins because every time she got the opportunity she just nailed it," Gunter said. "They had a great ability to come back and we had time after time an opportunity to win the basketball game and we didn't do it."
Nursing 89-88 lead, the Lady Tigers managed six straight free throws, two a each from Ke-Ke Tardy, Johnson and finally Augustus with just 10 second left. Hansen punched in a pair of free throws with 11 seconds remaining cutting the lead to 92-90, but that would be as close as it UCSB would get.
While player after player came up with a number of clutch shots, none might have been bigger than Johnson's running back shot tying the score forcing a second overtime period.
Trailing 68-66 with eight seconds remaining, Johnson took an outlet pass from Smith following a missed free throw by Lisa Willett. She drove the length of the floor and banged in a floater, tying the tally at 68.
"If I didn't drive, I was going to get fussed at so I had to find a way to at least get a foot in the paint so they could take it and I could kick it to Seimone or Doneeka (Hodges)," Johnson said.
However, Johnson elected to take it to the goal instead.
"I saw the glass and I knew if I was going to shoot it I had to get it up high," Johnson said. "I saw people coming toward me and I'm not that tall but I can jump a little so I had to get it up high."
Ironically, every period of the game resulted in a tie score until LSU outscored UC-Santa Barbara 14-10 in the third overtime period. After trailing by as many as seven points in the first half, 18-11 at the 8:09 mark, LSU battled back seizing a 29-24 advantage with 1:45 left to play. A Lindsey Taylor jump shot coupled with a Mia Fisher layup knotted the tilt at 29 at the break.