Anything is possible with a little hard work, a lot of heart and a big player inside in the world of women's basketball. At least this is the case for LSU.
The Lady Tigers may have enjoyed the moments after winning each of their NCAA Tournament games before tonight's match-up, but I have a feeling that no matter what happens next weekend, the moment they are enjoying right now will stand out the most.
With the fans gone, the bands lugging their instruments up the aisles, the AP writer filing his story to my left and the LSU radio station broadcaster getting ready to sign off for the night, there's a moment of silence here in the Save Mart Center.
Two more rounds are down, two more rounds are to go in the NCAA Tournament and all eyes will be focused on Cleveland in less than a week. Granted Cleveland may be another garden spot of America, but for the four teams who pack their bags to make the trip, it will be the place that they all hope to shine in a national spotlight.
The LSU team is dancing at center court to the sounds of their pep band.
The UConn team has left the court.
The LSU team just used hard work and good ju-ju to overcome scandal and distraction to get their seniors back to the Final Four for the fourth consecutive year.
The UConn team will take their pedigree into next season while LSU will take pieces away from their game net.
LSU's Fowles has a smile on her face that resembles the grin on a kid in a candy store. Of course she also did just do a kid-like expression when she stuck her tongue out at the ESPN camera, but hey, she just finished playing 39 minutes where she put the game away with her 23 points and 15 rebounds, so let's give her a break.
Sharing this championship spotlight for LSU is Ashley Thomas and Allison Hightower with 12 points a piece and Erica White with 11 points.
UConn's big plays cam from their little players of 5-foot-7 Renee Montgomery with 17 points and 5-foot-9 Mel Thomas with 13 points.
While former LSU coach Pokey Chatman may not be here in person tonight, I'm sure she is sitting somewhere with a smile on her face after watching her girls beat up on a UConn team that was over-matched.
This LSU team will proabaly party like it's Mardi Gras tonight as they just changed the story of the season to being the program that can overcome anything, from a coach passing away, two hurricanes, a scandal and last, but not least, a team with a pedigree that was favored.
For a moment there, I thought we were going to take a fire alarm time out.
No joke, the PA announcer was interrupeted by the emergency announcement that a fire had been reported in the Save Mart Center, prompting many fans to get up and start walking up the aisles.
The alarm has been cancelled, fans have returned to their seats and the game is going on, but for a moment I thought we were going to have a hot time here at the Save Mart Center despite the runaway score and the pouring rain outside.
An ex-boyfrined of mine from my Washington State University days had a sign in his dorm room that read "Statistics never lie, but never trust a statistician." I think the current lines on LSU's Sylvia Fowles and UConn's Tina Charles and Charde Houston are a testiment to the first part of that saying.
Fowles curently has 21 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks.
Charles has zero points, three rebounds and zero blocks while Houston has four points, four rebounds and zero blocks.
There's less than 10 minutes to go and time in running out on a second half miracle for UConn.
There's a lot of time left, but I think that UConn has lost their mojo.
LSU is now up by 12, yes 12, points and along with Fowles being a beast in the paint, there is also enough magic coming from her teammates around the perimeter that no one on the LSU team is being left out of the spotlight tonight.
LSU's Khaliliah Mitchell just put an exclamation mark on the LSU effort as she got the back-door pass and drove in for an uncontested lay-up. Keep in mind that Mitchell comes in at 5-foot-10.
There's some love for the little girls on the court...
It's simply amazing to watch LSU's Sylvia Fowles shooting her free throws. If there's an arch to the shot, she misses. If it's as straight as a frozen rope, she's dead on.
What's even more amazing to watch is the intensity in which Fowles blocks her opponent's shots. There's such a quiet intensity to it that she doesn't even jump up and down or pump her fist after blocking a shot just as she did against Kaili McLaren's last shot from two feet away.
One of the few expressions we do get to see from Fowles is after the wrestling match she just lost when she almost got clothes-lined by UConn's MCLaren. The expression was a big grin that seemed to be laughing at the absurdity of the refs not calling a foul.
Stay tuned...the second half of round two has over 15 minutes to go...
It's halftime and with the last two LSU fouls being called on players who uncontrollably fell on a UConn player after, it looks like the Lady Tigers may be auditioning to be in Cirque du Soleil with their high flying acrobatics.
Other memorable performances from the first half for LSU cam from big Syl Fowles who is en route to a double-double tonight with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Meanwhile, UConn is slowly coming along behind the 10 point performance of Renne Montgomery as Tina Charles wasn't able to find the bottom of the net in the first half. Charles has almost been completely shut down inside with her 0-2 performance.
LSU is shooting 45 percent for the half while UConn is shooting 37 percent.
LSU vs. UConn: Will the real Huskies please show up?
UConn does not look like a pedigree team right now.
They are not making good shots, the shots they are making are not falling in (they are shooting 44 percent from the field), Charde Houston has four of the nine turnovers on the team and with a nice volley shot by Ashley Thomas followed by a nothing but net three pointer from Allison Hightower (who is now 3-3 from the arc) and it looks like the bad ju-ju that Arizona State experienced in their game has seemed to travel West on a T1 internet connection and settled into the UConn Husky players.
There's lots of time and UConn knows how to make the adjustments to get back in the game, but with LSU now having doubled UConn's score, it's all LSU here in Fresno.
The weather forecast calls for rain tonight here in Fresno, but with the last two out of three baskets made came from behind the three point line, it's raining buckets of threes here in the Save Mart Center for the moment.
LSU vs. UConn: A little love for the big girls inside
LSU's Sylvia Fowles is 6-foot-6 and although UConn's Tina Charles is only 6-foot-4 (ok, whoever thought 6-foot-4 would be an only height?), the battle to be the Champions of Fresno may come down to who plays bigger in the middle.
The quote of the day about the big girls down low comes from Fowles during yesterday's off day:
"I always have to root for my big girls since I am a big girl down low."
Right now, LSU's Fowles gets a slight edge in the competition with the Lady Tigers being up 13-8 on a 5-0 run.
LSU tipped the ball out of bounds along press row here and after the ball was given back to the sideline official from one of the members of the ESPN entouroge, the Huskies got the ball in bounds and scored the first bucket of the night.
LSU responded with a duece of their own, so we're all tied up in the rematch of the season.
Six weeks ago on February 11, UConn traveled down to Baton Rouge to play LSU in a non-conference game in the middle of the season. UConn edged LSU that night by a single point 72-71 in a game that came down to the wire and a line.
“I know that (UConn guard) Mel (Thomas) was shouting that her foot was on the line, so I just trusted that, and I knew that nothing was going to change when they looked at the monitor,” said UConn guard Renee Montgomery of LSU’s Porsha Phillips’ shot at the buzzer that was ruled to be worth two instead of three points.
Instead of LSU, who is seeking their fourth Final Four appearance, taking a step back from that night, the Lady Tigers have taken step after step forward to make it to tonight’s match-up.
“It didn’t take long to get over that loss,” said LSU’s Sylvia Fowles. “We went into the locker room, discussed the things we did poorly and went on from there. It was a good game and a very competitive game which is what we knew was going to happen so we went out there and played the best that we could. We had some breakdowns, but after that, it was over.”
UConn, who has won 15 consecutive NCAA Tournament wins as a No. 1 seed, won the battle that night, but with so much on the line tonight, you know that everyone will be putting their best foot forward to win the war tonight.
“I know that (UConn forward) Tina Charles is going to bring her ‘A’ game so I will bring mine and it is going to be a show to watch,” said Fowles. “She brings out the best in me when I play her and I’m pretty sure I bring out the best in her.”
Along with Fowles, LSU is going to need big performances from Erica White, RaShonta LeBlanc, Quianna Chaney and Ashley Thomas.
“We have to make good defensive stops at key times,” said LSU acting coach Bob Starkey. “We have to play really well in a lot of areas. They find ways to beat you.”
Along with Charles, other UConn players who will need to bring their ‘A’ game out tonight in Fresno includes Montgomery, Charde Houston, Kalana Greene and Thomas.
“What we did the last time isn’t going to be good enough,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “My message to the players is that we’ve got to improve if we want to beat them.”
In less than 30 minutes each team will emerge from their respective corners of the Save Mart Center in their warm up silks and shoes laced up ready to rumble in the Fresno Regional Championship game.
After playing in and winning their Sweet Sixteen games last night, the LSU and UConn teams enjoyed an off day here in Fresno to rest, regroup and re-evaluate each other for tomorrow night’s game.
Yet with practices and grilling from the media that’s left here in Fresno, it seemed more like a normal business day than anything else for these two teams who are preparing to face each other for the second time this season.
The last time they met up was Feb. 11. UConn’s Charde Houston was not playing at 100 percent due to having a stomach flu and LSU still had a permanent head coach with Pokey Chatmen at the helm. It’s amazing the difference that six weeks can make.
Now, Houston is back to 100 percent and with her teammates who also seem to be firing on all cylinders these days, UConn is aware that at this stage of the season, anything is possible no matter what happened the last time they saw a team during the regular season.
The tournament is totally different and you have to expect that every team here has improved,” said Houston. “If you get comfortable, they can beat you.”
Just as the UConn team is different, so is the LSU team as they are playing under the guidance of acting coach Bob Starkey., but trying to keep everything in perspective.
“We didn’t do anything different,” said Starkey. “We didn’t put in any new plays or have any special team meetings, we have just kept on running the team how it had been ran as we thought it was important for the kids to have some normalcy to it. So far it has worked.”
One of the ways coach Starkey is helping his players maintain their perspective is by going back to one of the basics of basketball and taking care of the rock.
“About five or six years ago we started doing the 68 idea and called it the dedication game,” said Starkey. “This is where at a different point each season we would pick a game or road trip where we would get our kids together and they would have to dedicate a portion of that season to someone that is very important to them. It could be a family member or a friend and everyone would write that person’s name on a basketball and we would carry around that basketball around with us to keep us focused and centered.”
“We hadn’t done it this year so we chose to do it right before the NCAA Tournament. We all put our names on one basketball and take turns carrying that basketball around. It’s been kind of comical because Katie (Antony) has lost the ball a couple of times and gotten teased about it. I can’t tell you what each individual person put on the ball, but I don’t mind telling you mine as I picked this year’s team.”
I ran into Stanford Sports Information Director Brian Risso before the UConn vs. NC State game and asked what happend with his team against FSU.
He wasn't quite sure what happend either, but we both agreed that all good things must come to an end sooner or later.
Tonight NC State's and coach Kay Yow's good run came to an end and now, FSU's wild ride in the NCAA Tournament has also come to an end. Instead of going out with a bang, the Seminole's turned back into a pumpkin and go out with a thud as LSU just dominated the game en route to a 55-43 victory.
Along with holding FSU scoreless for 11 minutes in the first half, LSU had dominating performances from Quiana Chaney with her 22 points and Sylvia Fowles with 20 points.
FSU was led by Jacinta Monroe with 15 points and Alicia Gladden with 12 points.
The FSU players are enjoying one last serenade of their fight song by the FSU pep band and LSU is enjoying being part of the Elite Eight.
LSU will face off against UConn on Monday night here at the Save Mart Center with the winner then advancing to Cleveland next weekend for the Final Four.
I know Jessica usually comments on this subject, so in her honor, here's the dance team report.
LSU has on the traditional black spandex pants and in the first half donned glittering gold and purple halter tops. The halter tops have been replaced by skin tight basketball jerseys, but what is more scary is the number on their jerseys - zero.
I'm sure they are all bright, but I just can't avoid wondering if that's the reflection of their IQ...
Sorry, like I said, I couldn't avoid it.
Stay tuned...FSU is trying to come back as the lead has been cut to 12.
It's times like this when I really wish I could be in two places at once.
For instance, while I was busy covering the first and second rounds in LA last weekend, I now wish I could have been at the Stanford sub regional watching FSU upset Stanford. I wish this because after watching this team for the last 30+ minutes, it's hard to believe that they have made it to tonight.
FSU is shooting 27 percent for the game, have 16 turnovers, have one player in double digits and look like a high school team compared to LSU.
The halftime score of the FSU vs. LSU game isn't as close as halftime of the UConn vs. NC State game (37-36), but then again, the numbers in this first half are not anything to write home about either.
- Neither team is shooting over 50 percent (FSU is shooting a dismal 26 percent while LSU is at 42 percent).
- Both teams have turned the ball over at least 10 times (FSU with 11 and LSU with 10).
- Both teams are playing the boards tight (FSU with 19 and LSU with 20).
When I played (many years ago) I had a girlfriend that I was on the same team with who was 6-foot-5 and I felt like a dwarf at my humble 5-foot-8. Now I know what it really feels like to be short.
In fact, I think that the larger than life mascots are dwarfed by Ms. Fowles as well.
Seeing someone like Fowles on the court makes me feel really good that my playing days are over as I don't want to experience what it would be like to try to drive the lane with someone like her waiting down low.
So far Fowles only has three points and two rebounds in the LSU 20-8 lead, but give this game some time.
No. 10 seed Florida State has half of their roster over the 6-foot mark, but with No. 3 seed LSU’s Sylvia Fowles towering at 6-foot-6, will quantity be enough for Florida State to overcome LSU’s quality player?
Fowles not only is tall, but at 205 lbs, even some of her teammates are scared of her at times.
“Sometimes someone really does need to get on her,” said LSU junior guard Erica White told the Fresno Bee. “Sylvia's 6-foot-6 and upset and she had that gleam in her eye and it's just like I'm 5-foot-3, I'm not gonna put my frame at risk.”
Along with her teammates being happy to be playing in the same side of court, the Lady Tigers, who are here trying to make their fourth straight Final Four appearance next weekend, are hoping that Fowles will carry them into being an ‘Elite’ team. The next hurdle for Fowles and her LSU teammates, who are here after beating UNC Ashville and West Virginia in the Austin, TX, sub-regional, is to overcome a Cinderella team.
Florida State, who is making their seventh NCAA Tournament appearance, came into the tournament the old fashion way, they earned it.
After falling in the ACC tournament quarter-finals, the Seminoles received an at-large bid and received a No. 10 seeding in the Stanford, CA, sub-regional. While the Seminoles were doing some serious California dreaming last weekend when they played in Palo Alto, their dreams turned into a reality one game at a time.
First they beat a tradition-rich Old Dominion, a program that they last faced in 1981-1982 season. Then they faced a tough Stanford team in front of an even tougher Stanford crowd, on the Cardinals home court. With the win over Stanford, who had only lost four times during the season, was impressive, what’s even more impressive is that Florida State is in it despite being in the same underdog category as Marist.
Stay tuned, more to come as LSU is up 10-6 with 14:18 to play in the first half.
To give both mascots equal blogging time, here's the UConn Husky
He's cute and all, but after seeing one UConn fan with Husky ears and a Husky nose strapped to the top of her head and face, it's not really a good look on a person.
Stay tuned, in the last time out the NC State Wolfpack stood up to get direction from coach Yow. With there being under two minutes and the team being down by four (still), I hope they got the words of wisdom to pull of an upset here...
The Wolfpack shot 55 percent in the first half, had 19 rebounds and enjoyed a largest lead of seven at one point, but with eight turnovers and UConn scoring 13 points off of those turnovers, the Wolfpack should feel lucky that that UConn hasn't been able to make a big run in the first half.
Instead, UConn is working on getting the lid off the basket.
The Huskies shot 43 percent during the first half and only took one less shot than the Wolfpack.
Stay tuned, more to come in the second half when one of these teams joins the elite circle of teams still in the tournament.
NC State is holding onto their lead and with the display of happiness by Gillian Goring after making her last shot, the whole team has to be enjoying a four point lead heading into the final minutes of the first half.
However, with this lead being so slight, UConn is still in it in a big way.
UConn is shooting 44 percent from the field while NC State is at 63 percent.
UConn vs. NC State: Striking while the iron is hot
Before getting out of my car here at the Save Mart Center here in Fresno, I checked the temperature just to see how warm it was outside. You've got to love that it was 86 degrees around 4:30 (sorry East Coasters).
It was warm outside today, but the real heat of the day is coming from inside of the Save Mart Center. In the opening minutes, NC State has taken the lead. Granted it may not last forever, but their between their sharp shooting and man defense, the Wolfpack are starting out strong.
UConn has the experience that a team needs to win at the stage in the tournament, but with probably everyone in the world of women's college basketball rooting for NC State and coach Kay Yow, the Huskies are in a no win situation.
First, if they beat up on the Wolfpack, they will look like the heartless ogres of women's college basketball who ended the season of a coach who may not be back for next season.
Next, if they don't play to win, then they look like they are going easy on the Wolfpack because they feel sorry for their team's trials and tribulations this season.
Either way, UConn can't win.
However, UConn coach Geno Auriemma doesn't get on a plane and fly across the country with the intention of losing. Instead, he is trying to get his team back in the spotlight with the other elite teams for Monday match-ups.
Meanwhile, the two-tissue team should not be overlooked. Instead, count on the Wolfpack to utilize their emotions to carry them as far as fate, or their players, will allow.
The Wolfpack have won 10 of their last 12 since Yow returned to the sidelines and are putting up the same fight for their lives in the tournament that their coach is. It is this kind of emotional strength backed with some big time play that can make a team be elite.