taking their fourth Final Four trip in four years!
FRESNO, Calif. — There had been three prior trips for the LSU basketball team, but never like this, to reach the game’s Holy Grail.
Faced with having to conquer one of the game’s most preeminent programs — Connecticut — to return to the Women’s Final Four, the Lady Tigers enjoyed arguably their finest moment in three decades as a program.
Third-seeded LSU made it look rather easy behind West Regional most outstanding player Sylvia Fowles, leading by double-digits at halftime and pulling away during crunch time for a dominating 73-50 victory Monday over top-seeded UConn for the regional championship before 3,046 at Fresno State’s Save Mart Arena.
“We’ve done a lot of great things here at LSU,” LSU acting head coach Bob Starkey said. “We’ve gone to Finals Fours and won SEC championships, but the thing we haven’t done is beaten Connecticut. And that’s important in women’s college basketball because that’s where they are, that’s who they are. They’re one of those marquee programs.”
LSU (30-7) continues its nation’s best streak, reaching its fourth consecutive Final Four.
The Lady Tigers will face Rutgers on Sunday in Cleveland.
Rutgers, a No. 3 seed, beat fourth-seeded Arizona State 64-45 in the final of the Greensboro, N.C. Regional.
“They believed they would come out and do it,” Starkey said. “They were focused. I had a real good feeling coming in, though UConn is a very good team.”
Fowles scored a game-high 23 points, part of a group scoring effort for LSU, which shot 52.2 percent in the second half and 48.1 percent for the game. The 6-foot-6 junior center also grabbed 15 rebounds, blocked six shots and had three steals.
“We were just thinking about taking it possession by possession,” Fowles said. “They went on their little runs and we had our runs. Then after halftime we talked about coming out with a bang after losing to them at our house. We wanted to let it be known early that we were ready.”
LSU, which had its 43-game home-court win streak snapped by UConn on Feb. 11, also denied the Huskies (32-4) their ninth Final Four trip and first in three years.
“I felt good about the way we played and certainly the game was closer than the final score,” Starkey said. “They started fouling at the end and that created a little more separation. But from start to finish, that’s about as well as we played this year.”
“This game was important for me and my teammates,” Fowles said. “We were ready to go out there — as a team. This was special because our team just came together. We feel really good about ourselves.”
Congratulations Lady Tigers! Good luck in Cleveland!