LSU's Fowles Thrives On Intimidating Presence

Even her teammates are afraid at times to approach her

March 23, 2007

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - Sylvia Fowles is such an intimidating presence on the court that even her LSU teammates are afraid at times to approach her.

With Fowles struggling at halftime of a second-round game against West Virginia, point guard Erica White didn't want to be the one to tell her star center to pick up her game.

"Sometimes we need to get on her and it's hard because she's 6-6 ...," White said Friday. "When she's upset she has this look in her eyes. I'm 5-3. I'm not going to put my frame up against her."

Fowles did pick up her game in the second half, scoring 14 of her 21 points after halftime to rally the third-seeded Lady Tigers (29-7) to a 49-43 victory over West Virginia and a spot in Saturday's Fresno Regional semifinal against 10th-seeded Florida State (24-9).

"She came out in the second half smoking," White said. "I looked up at the end of the game and she didn't miss many shots and grabbed a lot of rebounds. Sylvia can be as dominating as Sylvia wants to be."

She has terrorized opponents all season, averaging 17 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. Just a junior, she has already become the third player in school history to top 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds and became the only player in SEC history to record a double-double in every league game this season.

But she took a little offense to the notion that that intimidation carries over to her teammates.

"On the court and off the court I'm different," she said. "I'm very dominating on the court but off the court I'm a big teddy bear. They have the right to come say something to me but they don't."

Then she turned to White and RaShonta LeBlanc and said, "Don't be afraid to come talk to me."

For the opposition, there's no doubt she's intimidating. Florida State coach Sue Semrau said Fowles combines the athleticism of Maryland star Crystal Langhorne with the size of Duke star Allison Bales, presenting as difficult a challenge as her team has faced all year.



"I do not think we have seen a player of her caliber," Semrau said. "You put those two kids together and you have Sylvia. Sylvia is a tremendous athlete, great size, a tremendous rebounder in addition to being a competitive scorer."

Acting coach Bob Starkey may have offered the biggest praise, comparing his center to another dominating post player he coached as an assistant on the LSU men's team in the early 1990s.

"She draws a lot of comparisons with Shaquille O'Neal," Starkey said. "She has great feet and excellent hands. She also has a wonderful personality and she's very popular with the players. It was the same way with Shaquille when he was in college."

Starkey took over the team after former head coach Pokey Chatman abruptly resigned March 7 amid allegations of improper conduct with a former player. LSU told NCAA officials not to allow questions about Chatman at the pregame news conference.

While the Lady Tigers are two wins away from their fourth straight trip to the Final Four, this is uncharted territory for the Seminoles. Florida State had never made it past the second round of the NCAA tournament before shocking second-seeded Stanford 68-61 on the Cardinal's home floor Monday night.

The Seminoles stayed in California all week, studying with tutors, practicing and then making the three-hour drive from Stanford to Fresno. Much of the time was spent on how to deal with Fowles.

"Most of our focus is going to be on her because she is one of the top scorers and top rebounders," guard Alicia Gladden said. "We have to focus on boxing her out and keeping her off the boards."