The Lady Tigers led all through the low-scoring first half and took a 26-23 lead into the locker room.
LSU scored the first basket of the second half, but Vanderbilt finally took the lead at 32-30 on a pair of free throws by Jen Risper with 15:44 left in the game.
For the next ten minutes of the game, the teams battled tooth and nail as neither team was able to take control of the game. The Lady Tigers were unable to reclaim the lead, but they also were able to keep pace with the Dores.
Then Vanderbilt stepped up the defensive pressure and slowly began to pull away. With 3:49 left in the game, the Dores took a double-digit lead at 53-42, the first double-digit lead by either team.
LSU was able to cut the lead back to eight points on a pair of free throws by LaSondra Barrett with 2:11 left in the game. But it turned out that those were the last points the Lady Tigers would score in the game, and when the final buzzer sounded, the Dores claimed the 61-47 victory.
With the win, Vanderbilt advances to the championship game against the Auburn Tigers, who defeated Tennessee 78-58 in the other semifinal game. Gametime is 6:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time, and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
Jence Rhoads scored Vanderbilt's first points of the game on a pair of free throws.
Early on, neither team was able to establish an offensive flow. With 11:19 left in the first half, Jen Risper's basket made the score 8-7 with LSU holding the one-point lead.
LSU's defensive plan called for locking down on outside shooting by Tina Wirth and Merideth Marsh. So Marsh's Plan B was to score off the drive. These two points cut a 7-point lead for LSU down to five points at 18-13.
With Wirth and Marsh being covered, someone else needed to step up. Point guard Jence Rhoads answered the bell, scoring 15 points in the game.
Coming into the game, Marsh was shooting 96.7% from the free throw line during conference play. She kept up the streak with a pair of free throws late in the first half to cut the LSU lead to 26-23 before halftime.
Jessica Mooney's layup following a steal by Wirth cut the LSU lead to one point at 28-27 early in the second half. Mooney and freshman guard Tia Gibbs were given the responsibility of guarding Allison Hightower, who scored 23 points in Friday night's game against Mississippi State. The duo held her to just six points for the game.
A pair of free throws by Risper gave the Dores their first lead of the night at 32-30 with 15:44 left in the game. Although there were several more ties in the game after that, LSU never regained the lead.
This layup by Marsh gave Vanderbilt a 4-point lead at 38-34, their biggest lead of the game to that point, but LSU would soon tie the score at 40-40.
Late in the game, Vanderbilt began to pull away. With 5:39 left, Wirth fed the ball to freshman Jordan Coleman, who scored to give Vanderbilt a five-point lead at 47-42.
After Risper picked up her fourth foul with 8:42 left in game, the Vanderbilt lineup included two freshman, one sophomore, one junior and one senior. A hard foul sent Gibbs to the deck with 4:31 left in the game.
Gibbs hit one of the free throws to give the Dores at 51-42 lead.
Jence Rhoads' layup with 2:25 left gave Vanderbilt a 55-45 lead. After that, LSU could manage only a couple of free throws.
After the 61-47 Vanderbilt win, Carol Ross interviewed Rhoads and Wirth, who were the leading scorers in the game with 15 and 18 points, respectively. The pair also combined for five assists with no turnovers and four steals.
Photos copyright 2009 by WhitneyD for VandyMania.com