LSU, UConn Divided By Less Than A Toe - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

LSU, UConn Divided By Less Than A Toe

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - The difference between LSU and Connecticut
the first time they met this season, was smaller than Porsha
Phillips' toe.

Her buzzer-beating basket from the top of the key left LSU one
point short when replays confirmed her left toe was on the 3-point
line, giving her only two points on the final play of Connecticut's
72-71 victory.

"Hopefully we won't have to go through that again," Phillips
said Sunday. "Hopefully we'll be up like 20 at the end."
Huskies coach Geno Auriemma at the time called the game a
"dress rehearsal" for the NCAA tournament, and he has proven to
be prophetic. Top-seeded UConn (32-3) and third-seeded LSU (29-7)
will meet again in Monday night's Fresno Regional final in an
intriguing matchup between two of the elite teams in the country.

There's LSU's dominating post player Sylvia Fowles against
UConn's talented duo of freshman Tina Charles and junior Charde
Houston. Each team has strong defenses, 3-point shooters and
talented rosters that feature no seniors.

"I see no weaknesses when I look at Connecticut," acting LSU
coach Bob Starkey said. "They have great point guard play, good
post play in the middle, they have some outstanding 3-point
shooters, they have some athletes who can drive and a deep bench.
They have everything you could possibly want to make a deep run."

Starkey is making his own run after taking over the team when
Pokey Chatman abruptly resigned March 7 amid allegations of
improper conduct with a former player. A longtime assistant for the
men's and women's teams at LSU, Starkey has just three games of
experience as a head coach.

And now he's matching wits with Geno Auriemma, who has won five
national titles at Connecticut.

"I'm going to lose that tale of the tape there," Starkey said.
"Geno's a better coach, he's a better looking guy, he's a better
dresser and he's funnier than I am."

Auriemma's response: "True. But he has Sylvia Fowles."
Fowles is one of the most dominating post players in the
country, controlling the game on both ends of the floor. She had 22
points and 17 rebounds in the first meeting and has had some of her
best games against the toughest opponents.

"She's definitely the best post player I've played against in
my career," UConn guard Renee Montgomery said. "She's just so
hard to guard and can do so many different things. You usually
don't see a 6-7 girl that can run and jump and doesn't get tired
easily. She's pretty much one of a kind."

As good as Fowles was in the first meeting between the teams,
she could not lead LSU to the victory. If this game is as dramatic
as the last, it will be one of the most memorable in tournament
history.

Back on Feb. 11, Quianna Chaney hit a jumper to tie the game for
LSU with 17.1 seconds left. Montgomery came right back and hit a
3-pointer over Erica White to put the Huskies back on top with 6.7
seconds remaining.

That set the stage for Phillips, who took a pass from White,
tried to step behind the 3-point line and shot just before the
buzzer. The Lady Tigers celebrated, but the Huskies were sure it
was only a 2-pointer.

Mel Thomas screamed that Phillips' foot was on the line and the
official signaled for a 2-pointer. But the call that ended LSU's
43-game home winning streak wasn't confirmed until after a check of
the replay.

Now the Huskies the tough task of needing to beat LSU again to
make it back to the Final Four for the first time since winning
their third straight title in 2004.

"I think when you get to the NCAA tournament, if you play
exactly like you did in the regular season, you're going to lose,"
Auriemma said. "Tomorrow we need to play a lot better than we did
at LSU. And so do they."

Montgomery was the star for UConn in the first meeting, also
hitting a 25-footer down the stretch as part of a 20-point night.
The Huskies are just one of two teams to crack 70 points against
the stingy Lady Tigers, who lead the nation in scoring defense at
48.7 points per game and 32.6 percent shooting by their opponents.

Even though the Lady Tigers are looking for their fourth
straight Final Four appearance and none of the current Huskies have
been there even once, there is still some mystique around UConn.

"When you go up against a team with so much history and
tradition I try to say, 'OK, Erica, whatever is on the front of
their jersey, just don't pay any attention to it,"' White said.
"Just look at the five that's on the floor. Our five versus their
five. That's what it's all about."

Powered by Frankly