RESULT: LSU 80 – Ole Miss 36
UP NEXT FOR LSU: No. 4 seed Kentucky, 6:30 p.m. Eastern
LSU received its regular season championship trophy before tipping off against Ole Miss and then went about dismantling the Rebels in the opening game on day two of the 2008 SEC Women's Tournament.
The Lady Tigers shot 50 percent in the first half to build a 39-19 lead – this with Sylvia Fowles sitting for 10 minutes because of two fouls – and barely cooled off in the second half to finish the game at 49.2 percent.
Ole Miss was misfiring – 26.9 percent from the field in the first half and 19.4 percent in the second – to finish at 22.6 percent for the game.
LSU Coach Van Chancellor played everyone on the roster and nobody went over 24 minutes.
"First of all, I thought our team, understatement of the year, I thought we just played well," Chancellor said. "I thought our girls played the best that they played all year."
Ole Miss Coach Renee Ladner didn't sound like she needed any convincing.
"LSU dominated us in every aspect of the game," Ladner said. "I think LSU is one of the best teams in the country, maybe the best defensive team, I know, that we've faced all year. And they caused havoc on our team all day, so hats off to LSU.
"They were well prepared, they looked like a championship team, and we were just not at our best."
"I don't think they looked any better; I just think we looked a lot worse," said Shantell Black, who was 0-6 from the field for Ole Miss. "We weren't as aggressive. We didn't come out with the same mentality as before."
LSU, 26-4, was led by Quianna Chaney with 17 points and Sylvia Fowles with 10. Erica White and Mesha Williams had nine points each.
The 44-point margin of victory was the third largest in SEC tourney history. Tennessee holds the largest margins of victory – 74 points in 1980 against Florida and 61 points against Vanderbilt in 1998.
Ole Miss' 36 points set a new tourney record for fewest points scored; the previous low was 39 by Auburn against Vandy in 2002.
"Here's the whole deal," Chancellor said. "When I came to LSU the one thing I was not going to do was change what we were – what Coach Bob Starkey and them had been doing defensively. They led the country and anytime I ever watched them play (when doing TV commentary), you just couldn't score on them. … I would not tinker with that."
What Chancellor wanted LSU to do was run with the ball and score in transition.
"I just wanted us to get in a freer mood to play, have fun, get a shot, shoot the ball," Chancellor said. "But our defense has been really constant for us this year, and I'm really proud of that."
LSU got production from every available player on the roster – Chancellor used 12 players, and everyone scored – and ended up with 38 points from the bench, led by Williams.
"I thought Mesha Williams was outstanding," Chancellor said.
"We have faith in them because we see them every day in practice, but just for them to step up is big and play a big part in the offense," Fowles said.
LSU won the regular season championship and the senior class has made it to three SEC tourney finals, only to come away empty – twice to Tennessee (2005, 2006) and once to Vanderbilt (2007).
"We're definitely trying to play with our championship swagger," White said.
LSU will play Kentucky in the first semifinal game Saturday. The Wildcats eliminated Georgia on Friday.
"LSU is going to obviously be the favorite in the game, and it's a tough, physical matchup for us," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "But I think the way you saw our team battle tonight and fight and come out with that type of energy; we gave LSU a heck of a game down in Baton Rouge, so I'm going to point that out to our players and tell them they need to gain confidence in that."
Kentucky was tied with LSU late in that game in Louisiana, but succumbed 52-48 on Feb. 21.
"We know the only way we can go to the NCAA Tournament for certain is to win – we had to win (Friday), so the only way we can keep that alive for us is to win (Saturday)," Mitchell said.
GAME TWO: No. 2 seed Tennessee vs. No. 7 seed Florida
RESULT: Tennessee 92 – Florida 61
UP NEXT FOR TENNESSEE: No. 3 seed Vanderbilt, 9 p.m. Eastern
See separate game story on this site.
GAME THREE: No. 4 seed Kentucky vs. No. 5 seed Georgia
RESULT: Kentucky 57 – Georgia 50
UP NEXT FOR KENTUCKY: No. 1 seed LSU
This game featured a rematch of teams who battled until the last day of the regular season for a coveted bye spot in the SEC tourney. Kentucky won that battle based on head-to-head competition and took the postseason game, too.
"We were trying to go inside to Sarah (Elliott), and I don't know if Sarah touched the ball on that possession but everyone else did, and we had really good ball movement," Chowning said. "Amani dumped a pass down to Vic, and it was a really good pass. I don't know how much time was left at that point, but I saw they all collapsed inside so I called for the ball, and Vic saw me, and I caught it.
"I knew there couldn't be much time so I just shot it. That was a really big momentum swing going into the half."
Chowning made another big play on a Georgia three-on-one fast break with 1:32 to play in the game and the Lady Bulldogs trailing by eight. The senior Wildcat guard blocked Megan Darrah's layup attempt and Kentucky got the ball back.
"I think it was a messed-up possession on offense and I was the only one back," Chowning said.
Kentucky, 15-14, kept its lead and bounced the Lady Bulldogs from the tourney for the first time in Wildcat program history. Georgia was 5-0 against Kentucky in the SEC tourney prior to Friday's 57-50 win.
"Our players gave a supreme effort, and we knew we would have to," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "We had to fight all year long to win games, and this was an outstanding victory for us.
"We talked about trying to use the bye to our advantage. We had fought hard to earn that fourth seed, and we wanted to try to use it and make something of it. … Great, great night for the Kentucky Wildcats."
Kentucky was led by Sarah Elliott with 16 points and nine rebounds. Chowning had nine points behind three 3-pointers.
The Wildcats also were playing to keep their season alive. The win put them one game over .500 for the season – a must for a WNIT bid if Kentucky doesn't win the SEC tourney for the NCAA's automatic bid – and ensured the season didn't stop Friday.
"I think really it energized us because we knew if we didn't come out with a win our season would be over, and we don't think we're a team that deserves for our season to be over right now," Chowning said.
"We had the lead at halftime … they challenged us in the second half, but we responded, and I think it shows a whole lot about our team's character that we were able to do that."
"She's someone that offensively we depend on, so it's tough, a little tougher for us when she can't produce," said Georgia Coach Andy Landers, who noted several players struggled from the field, and "we can't lay it all at Tasha's feet."
Houts went the distance for 40 minutes and was red-eyed at the post-game press conference.
"We knew we wanted to come out and make a statement because of what they did to us in Athens," Houts said. And we didn't do that because we didn't win the game. It's just something we've got to get better at. We've got to go as a team and get better and go to work in practice and just continue to improve."
Georgia overcame the 10-point halftime deficit and tied the game at 39-39 with 12:42 left in the game on two free throws by Angela Puleo.
"I believe that point (in the game) right there should have been handled in the first half," Robinson said. "We played poorly in the first half. It shouldn't have been that close."
Kentucky never let Georgia gain the lead and pushed it back to 10 points, 56-46, with 3:55 left to play.
"I think for us and where we are right now, I think that was probably a big factor in the game," Mitchell said. "I think that us being able to never relinquish the lead from a psychological standpoint, an emotional standpoint, I think that was important.
"This one is about a tough group of young women who came together and fought real hard, and I give them all the credit. They did a great job, and I'm real proud of our players."
The 50 points scored by Georgia were the lowest of the season since putting up only 44 against the Wildcats in a 47-44 regular season loss on Jan. 31.
Georgia went through some rough patches this season but closed strong and had hoped for a better showing in Nashville.
"You know, without going into any detail, and I won't go into detail, I've pushed a lot of buttons," Landers said. "I've tried a lot of different things this year. Some I'd probably go back and wish that I hadn't tried, to get this basketball team to respect and appreciate the right to play Georgia basketball."
Kentucky will be at full strength Saturday with the return of Carly Ormerod, who was suspended for one game for undisclosed reasons.
"It's been a team issue, and it's been handled and we'll move forward," Mitchell said.
The Wildcats get another shot at extending the season but face a formidable foe in LSU.
"We came down here to win the tournament," Mitchell said. "We knew we had a good SEC run, and we were confident that we could come down here and make a run at the tournament. We'll go out and play to win and see if we can get a victory.
"It'll be very difficult, but I told our coaches any time you play on Saturday in the SEC Tournament it's going to be a difficult game. I'm proud of our team, and we'll get ready for LSU."
GAME FOUR: No. 3 seed Vanderbilt vs. No. 6 seed Auburn
RESULT: Vanderbilt 49 – Auburn 44
UP NEXT FOR VANDERBILT: No. 2 Tennessee, 9 p.m. Eastern
Vanderbilt's bench accounted for the bulk of the scoring – what little there was – in the first half as the Commodores held a 23-15 halftime lead over Auburn in the final game played Friday.
Jessica Mooney had eight points and Liz Sherwood added six in the first 20 minutes for Vanderbilt. DeWanna Bonner had seven for Auburn and remained the workhorse for the Tigers as she finished with 23 points.
The final score, 49-44, was the lowest combined score (93) in SEC Tournament history, beating by one point the record the two teams previously held when they played in 2002 in a 55-39 Vandy win.
"Well, I think it was a really hard-fought game by both teams," Vanderbilt Coach Melanie Balcomb said. "Auburn did a great job defensively. We were really out of sync on offense, turned the ball over a ton, and they really took us out of what we do."
Vanderbilt, 23-7, shot 34.7 percent for the game and hit just 3-13 from behind the arc. Mooney finished with 10 points, Merideth Marsh added 10, and Jennifer Risper had nine points. Christina Wirth, a go-to player for the Commodores was 1-9 from the field and had just two points.
"You have to key on Tina," Balcomb said. "Obviously they did a great job on her. They took her out of a lot of things. She did get looks early on that she usually knocks down and didn't, but I think they continued to take her looks away, and we just started going to Risper a lot and Jess."
Auburn, 20-11, shot 28.6 percent and couldn't find anyone to give Bonner much help. Trevesha Jackson had seven points and Jordan Greenleaf added six. The Tigers were 0-13 from behind the arc and missed 11 free throws.
"I feel like I just got done with a prize fight," Auburn Coach Nell Fortner said. "It was just one slug and then another slug and it was just a hard-fought defensive battle. The free throw line really hurt us. If we could have knocked those free throws down it would have been nice."
Fortner said the strategy was to switch defenders on Wirth as she either popped out or popped up off screens.
"We were switching those, and we ended up having somebody on her," Fortner said. "She wasn't getting many looks. But God, she killed us with that one at the end, at the elbow."
Wirth hit her lone field goal with the score tied at 41-41 and two minutes left in the game. Vandy secured the game with free throws by Mooney, Marsh and Amber Norton, and Auburn's upset bid was snuffed.
Vanderbilt, which is now 8-0 in the Nashville arena in SEC tourney play, will next take on in-state rival Tennessee. It will be the third meeting this season between the schools.
The closeness of Friday's game should help Vandy narrow its focus for the Lady Vols.
"I think it prepares us a little bit more, gets us more focused for the next game," Risper said.
"I hope so," Balcomb said. "You know, you don't ever want a game to be close, but at the same time we haven't been in a lot of close games down the stretch. We've been playing really well and our games have not been close and we have not had to hit big free throws or execute down the stretch, and that's one thing we just talked about in the locker room is building confidence from that, that we were able to be successful doing that."
ODDS AND ENDS:
FIRST BASKET ON DAY TWO: By Ole Miss' Bianca Thomas, a three-pointer from the corner, against LSU.
WORST INDICATOR OF WHAT'S TO COME: That shot. Ole Miss hit just 2-10 from three-point range while LSU lit up the Sommet Center with seven. Quianna Chaney led the Lady Tigers with four three-pointers.
MOST ENERGY ON THE SIDELINE: Ole Miss Coach Renee Ladner, whose sideline antics make everyone else seem sedate. She tossed her jacket three minutes into the LSU game, called a quick timeout to vehemently confront her players on the court and generally paced like a caged critter.
She remained fairly animated in the first half, but as LSU stretched its lead to 30-plus points Ladner settled into a seat on the bench.
BEST SMILE That of LSU's Quianna Chaney. After she tipped the ball out of bounds, the official signaled it was Ole Miss' ball and Chaney looked serious and said, ‘Oh, she hit it last.' When the official looked at her in disbelief, Chaney cracked a huge smile.
BEST OUTFIT: The gold pants worn by LSU Coach Van Chancellor. He completed the sartorial effect with a purple and gold tie.
"I thought my coach looked nice," LSU guard Erica White said.
"That will get you big minutes tomorrow," Chancellor said.
"I know he didn't dress himself; his wife did," LSU center Sylvia Fowles said.
"I know I'm styling," Chancellor said.
"You are, Coach," White said. "Top-notch."
"I might have been criticized behind my back a lot, but since I've been at LSU the only criticism I've had to face is that I don't wear enough purple and gold so I'm trying to change that every day," Chancellor said. "Our fans are just … oh, Lord."
Taking fashion tips from LSU fans is questionable. Several were decked out Friday in facemasks and tiger paws, along with the assortment of beads, feathers, floppy headwear and purple-and-gold body paint.
BEST FOCUS: That of Quianna Chaney, who did a TV interview post-game with FSN while a nearby pack of LSU fans chanted, "Q, Q, Q, Q."
BEST FOOTWORK: That of a Georgia cheerleader to avoid Coach Andy Landers during a timeout. Georgia holds its timeouts well away from the bench, and Landers makes a wide circle to reach his players. He went right into the path of the cheerleaders, who were taking the floor for a routine.
BEST CELEBRATION: That of Kentucky's players who ran across the court to celebrate with their fans after defeating Georgia.
HARDEST SHOT: The one Auburn's Jordan Greenleaf took to the face against Vanderbilt. She left the court with a bandage soaking up blood from her nose but later returned to the game.
MOST FRUSTRATED: Vanderbilt Coach Melanie Balcomb over the officiating. She got a technical against Auburn in the first half while her team was leading the game. Her mood didn't get any better in the second half.
Vandy was taking the ball inside and instead of drawing fouls the Commodores were being called for offensive fouls and traveling.
"We talked to each other about staying calm," Balcomb said. "Obviously I didn't do so well at it."