Fowles, White, too much for Marist in 68-49 LSU victory, end Red Foxes’ 22-game winning streak
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP)—While Marist defenders did everything they could to stop LSU center Sylvia Fowles, the Lady Tigers’ smallest player took the game over.
Erica White scored all of her 15 points in the second half to break open a close game and also had four steals to help LSU stop Marist’s 22-game winning streak with a 68-49 victory in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Monday night.
The 5-foot-3 point-guard was limited to six minutes in the first half because of a couple early fouls and the time to analyze the game from the bench seemed to do her some good.
“They were basically going to stick four people on Sylvia and dare us to shoot, so basically all night I was dreaming about knocking down open shots,” White said. “I didn’t get a chance to do that in the first half so I just tried to stay focused.”
Fowles, the Lady Tigers’ 6-foot-6 center, was still too much for Marist. She had 19 points and 13 rebounds. She also became the leading rebounder in the history of the Southeastern Conference with 1,527.
Julianne Viani led seventh-seeded Marist (32-3) with 21 points, hitting 5 3-pointers. Rachele Fitz had 11 points and nine rebounds.
The Tigers advanced to face Oklahoma State in the New Orleans Regional semifinals on Saturday.
Marist fell to 0-9 all-time against the SEC, whose teams have ousted the Red Foxes from the tournament the last three seasons. They lost to Georgia in 2006 and last season to Tennessee in the round of 16.
White scored on an array of perimeter shots and determined drives to the hoop to help second-seeded LSU (29-5) break open a close game.
“She was one of the players we kind of wanted to force to beat us and she stepped up, she really did,” Viani said. “It is frustrating when somebody’s getting steals and making shots left and right and it’s somebody that you were hoping wouldn’t.”
Fowles and White were among eight seniors who have yet to miss a Final Four at LSU and were playing their final game on campus. The pair left the game to a standing ovation with under two minutes left and then returned to center court to recognize the crowd when the game ended.
“What was going through my head was that this was my last time on the (home) court and I got a little numb feeling in my stomach,” Fowles said. “But it was a good feeling just to see our fans up yelling and screaming and knowing we did a great thing and we left on a good note.”
LSU’s senior class improved to 54-3 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and now will travel just 80 miles down the Mississippi River for the regionals, where they need two victories to finish their careers with four trips to the Final Four and give the Lady Tigers their fifth straight Final Four appearance overall.
“That’s a great basketball team,” Marist coach Brian Giorgis said. “We gave them everything they could handle and more and unfortunately we couldn’t sustain it.”
LSU scored on its first two possessions and forced three early turnovers, but Marist seemed neither rattled nor intimidated.
The Red Foxes’ swarming defense held LSU to 39 percent shooting well into the second half. However, eight of the Lady Tigers’ first 14 rebounds were on the offensive end, and LSU cashed in on a number of second chances.
LSU also converted 19 turnovers into 28 points.
The Lady Tigers began to pull away with a 9-0 run shortly before the midway point of the second half. Quianna Chaney, who had 10 points, started it with a mid-range jumper and capped it with a 3. In between, Fowles rebounded two of her misses inside before laying in the third chance and White converted a steal into a fast-break layup.
That put LSU up 45-34 and once the Lady Tigers started scoring, Marist struggled to keep pace with a team that came in allowing only 50.6 points per game, fewest in the nation.
“We have the most suffocating defense I’ve ever been around,” said LSU coach Van Chancellor, who has won Olympic and WNBA titles as a women’s coach.
White later converted a three-point play on a driving floater as she was fouled, then hit a 3-pointer, giving her 13 points in the first 11:20 of the second half and putting LSU ahead 53-41.
LSU controlled the game early, building a 25-15 lead behind Fowles’ 11 first-half points.
Viani almost single-handedly kept Marist in the game in the first half, going 3-of-5 from 3-point range and scoring 13 of the Red Foxes’ 27 points. None of the other four starters scored during the first 13 minutes until Nikki Flores’ steal and fast-break layup, which pulled Marist to 22-15.
Fitz, who came in as Marist’s scoring leader with an average of 18.8 points, finally broke through when Viani set her up inside more than 15 minutes into the game. Fitz scored again during the final minute of the half, capping a 12-4 run that cut LSU’s lead to 29-27 at halftime.
“We lost our offensive synch and we were just trying to hang on until halftime,” Chancellor said. “Then we were going to turn Erica loose because we thought she’d be fresh.”
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