LSU moves on to title game - tops Vandy 78-69

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – No need worrying about LSU star forward Seimone Augustus being held scoreless in the first half. <br><br> One would think a coach would panic when her leading scorer fails to score in the first 20 minutes of play – not Sue Gunter. <br><br> Augustus, who was 0-for-5 in the first half, scored 20 second half points, including 14 in a row at the end of regulation as the Lady Tigers fought off Vanderbilt 78-69 Saturday night at ALLTEL Arena.

LSU (26-3) will meet Tennessee Sunday afternoon in the SEC Tournament finals. The Lady Vols defeated Mississippi State 76-75 in the earlier game Saturday. Sunday's matchup will be a rematch of an earlier meeting, which Tennessee (28-3) won 68-65 on Feb. 23.


"This game is going to be good being that we beat them last year with only seven people," Lady Tiger junior Temeka Johnson said. "I think last year they felt like they could continually rotate players in on us since we were so short on players. Now we nit only have 14 players on our team, we have 14 talented and healthy players."


The Lady Tigers avenged last Sunday's 72-60 loss to the Lady Commodores in Nashville.


For the second night in a row, LSU was forced to rally from behind in the closing g minutes fending off their opponent for the win.


"We need to try and get some more excellent games in this tournament," Gunter said. "I have never in 21 years seen so many exciting games, ever."


Augustus hit her first shot of the game with 19:01 to go in the second half. A pair of free throws at the 17:18 mark pushed her tally to four for the night. She did not hit her first jump shot until the 12:56 point in the second period.


Then she ran wild.


The Baton Rouge freshman gave LSU a 66-65 lead with 4:13 left to play in regulation converting a runner jumper. After Vanderbilt's Jenni Benningfield knocked home two free throws at the 3:52 mark, only an Abi Ramsey layup with 45 seconds left offset Augustus' final 12-point run.


"It's no surprise," Gunter said. "We knew she could do it. If she has the ball and she's making good shots, she's going to knock them down for us."


"Goodness she was clutch today," Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb said. "She hit some big shots. She was killing us on dribble penetration."


Augustus said she did not get rattled when her initial shots did not fall.


"My teammates kept me composed and I got into the post and it opened up some great offensive opportunities for me," Augustus said.


She was reluctant to mention she got some motivation from teammate Johnson.


"I fussed at her," Johnson laughed.


Gunter said she had no idea the number of points her prize freshman scored down the stretch.


"She scored 14 points in a row, Wow!" Gunter said.


Vanderbilt (21-9) started the game with a hot hand, draining 6-of-12 first half three-pointers and led by as many as nine points after a Ramsey trey with 8:55 to go in the opening period.


Vanderbilt's Kia Battle drives around Seimone Augustus (AP/LaurieDriver)


However, LSU managed to cut the lead to four points, a 39-35 deficit at the half, without a single point from Augustus, the team's leading scorer.

In the second half, though, the Lady Commodores went cold as ice from beyond the three-point arc, missing 11 attempts and failing to convert a single three-point shot.


"We just weren't hitting shots," Benningfield said. "We didn't execute. We were just one step slow today and didn't hit our three-point shots in the second half."


A turning point in the second half came when Vanderbilt's Ashley McElhiney, the Lady Dores senior point guard, crumpled to the floor with a sprained ankle. McElhiney missed LSU's first matchup with Vanderbilt in Baton Rouge with a sprained ankle. She turned her right ankle this time, sending her to the bench for only a minute and half.


It turned out to be a big swing in momentum for LSU.


In Baton Rouge, the Lady

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