LSU Surviving Whatever Comes Its Way

Tigers are making their fourth consecutive Final Four, hoping to survive another round

March 28, 2007

By Lara Boyko

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Lara Boyko

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On Monday night in the Fresno Regional Final against UConn, a senior-less No. 3 seeded LSU team not only convincingly won the game to advance to their fourth consecutive Final Four, but also proved to the women's basketball community that no adversity is too great for them to overcome.


"We've gone through our share [of adversity]," junior guard Erica White said. "We're a resilient bunch. Those tough times most people break, but we just find a way to come together and be stronger. It's not focusing on the negative and just staying pretty positive."

The first test for seven of the nine juniors who started at LSU came before they arrived on campus in 2004, when the coach who recruited them, Sue Gunter, retired in April of that year due to illness. Gunter, who passed away Aug. 5, 2005, was replaced by legendary LSU player Pokey Chatman, but adjusting to the change in coaching style was only the first of many obstacles this program would face for the next three years.


The Lady Tigers overcame hard times for a second and third time that year when the LSU campus dealt with the aftermaths of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.


With clear skies in sight and Chatman firmly at the helm, this young group of players who had already weathered a few storms were ready to lead the LSU program into the 2007 NCAA Tournament with visions of another Final Four. However, fate had other plans.


Instead of being guided through the tournament bracket by Chatman's inspirational leadership, the Lady Tigers would use their survival skills under an acting head coach. Assistant Bob Starkey took over the program when Chatman stepped down earlier this month amidst a scandal involving inappropriate behavior with a former player.


"We have just kept on running the team how it had been run, as we thought it was important for the kids to have some normalcy to it," Starkey said of his young team that is comprised of nine juniors, one sophomore and two freshmen.


With Starkey trying to return as much normalcy as possible to the program, LSU women has used its off-the-court fortitude to show that they can also survive anything thrown at them on the court.


In the first round of the tournament, the Lady Tigers demolished No. 14 UNC-Asheville. They then survived a scare by holding off No. 11 West Virginia. In the Sweet 16, LSU turned No. 10 Florida State's dreams of being the Cinderella team of the year into a pumpkin, handing the Seminoles a 55-43 defeat. Most recently, the Lady Tigers proved that UConn, the Fresno Region No. 1 seed, is nothing but a five-letter abbreviation. LSU pounded the Huskies 73-50.


"We're really pleased where we are at in this point of the season," Starkey said. "A big part of postseason play is to get your team to play well at that junction. I think we did that and a lot needs to be said for our kids in the way they stepped up, specifically in the way they played against a really good Connecticut team. Momentum is an important part of the postseason and our goal this week in practice is to try to keep up that momentum. "


Making it all possible for the Lady Tigers is the dominating force in their 6-foot-6 junior forward/center Sylvia Fowles, who is often compared to LSU alum Shaquille O'Neal for the way she can move on the floor and be the go-to player down low. Yet no matter what kind of game Fowles has, LSU understands that a team effort is necessary to win each game.


"We always have each other's back, so it doesn't matter who gets the credit or is in the spotlight as long as it is done as a team," guard Quianna Chaney said.


Rounding out the survivorship skills of this team are Chaney, White, RaShonta LeBlanc and Ashley Thomas.


With one more weekend to go in March Madness, the Lady Tigers hope their survival skills, and the fourth time being the charm, will leave them the last team standing.