FRES-NO FINAL FOUR

By Kevin Meacham The Daily Campus

March 27, 2007

Storrs, CT (CSTV U-WIRE) -- FRESNO, Calif. - With 5:23 remaining in the second half, the public address system in the Save Mart Center warned of a fire emergency. It was a false alarm.

The only danger on the night, for UConn's players, was Sylvia Fowles.

Fowles scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, leading LSU to a 34-22 halftime lead. The Tigers dug in and blew out the Huskies, 73-50 in the Fresno Regional final in front of 3,046 at the Save Mart Center.

"We worked really hard for 12 months and you hope you play a game you're proud of so if you lose, you feel like you played really well," said head coach Geno Auriemma. "It's unfortunate we didn't play well."

The Huskies, who suffered their worst loss since a 77-54 loss to North Carolina in December 2005 dug themselves an early hole, thanks to a pair of LSU runs, 14-2 and 10-0 in the first half.

The Tigers (30-7) dominated the No. 1-seeded Huskies (31-4) in the first half like no team UConn had played all season.

LSU center Sylvia Fowles scored 13 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in the first 20 minutes, while Allison Hightower spread the UConn defense out with 10 points, including 3-of-3 from beyond the 3-point line.

The Tigers shot 7-for-10 on the game from 3-point range, making sure the Huskies could never get close.

"Their guys that aren't great 3-point shooters, everything seemed to be going in," said guard Mel Thomas. "Fowles was blocking and alternating shots. I never dreamed in a million years this was how the season was going to end."

"It was a whole bunch of not doing things," said center Brittany Hunter. "To be blown out during the majority of the game, you never expect to play like that in the Elite Eight."

"They had it and we didn't," said forward Kalana Greene, who scored 8 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. "They had more players show up than we did. They got hot and Fowles made herself assertive. She dominated the game, she's the best post player in the game." In the first half, LSU's defense suffocated every option - the Huskies seemed unwilling to get the ball inside against the 6-foot-6 Fowles, forcing poor shot selection and a 34.8 percent clip in the first half.

That was fairly unexpected - UConn scored 72 points in a victory at LSU in February.

"This time, we came in very focused, that we were going to stop them with our defense," Fowles said.

"I think we are a more mature team than we were in February," said LSU guard Erica White. "I think we have learned what we did wrong and made it better to get the win."

The dominance in the low post was clear - Charde Houston and Tina Charles combined for 5 points and 11 rebounds. It was the first time neither had scored in double-figures since a 60-50 win against Cincinnati in January.

Fowles finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds and 6 blocks and was named the Fresno Region's Most Outstanding Player.

"I played like a freshman today," Charles said. "I wasn't there when my team needed me. I was nervous."

Any hopes the Huskies had were snuffed out at the beginning of the second half when White and Ashley Thomas keyed a 5-0 run to begin the half, ballooning the lead to 17 with 17 minutes to play.

Mel Thomas' 3-pointer with 4:02 remaining pulled UConn within 59-48, but the Huskies would get no closer thanks to a Fowles lay-up and a bevy of free throws down the stretch.

Thomas and Renee Montgomery did most of the damage for UConn, scoring 13 and 17 points, respectively. Montgomery shot 6-for-17 from the field, while Thomas was an efficient 5-for-9.

Other than those two players, there wasn't much doing for the UConn offense - the rest of the team shot 9-for-34, including 0-for-5 efforts from freshmen Charles and Kaili McLaren.

"Not everybody was there, including myself," McLaren said. "I wasn't there offensively, and we just can't have that happen."

Four players - Fowles, Hightower (12), Ashley Thomas (12) and White (11) - scored in double-figures for the Tigers, who advance to their fourth consecutive Final Four.

(C) 2007 The Daily Campus via CSTV U-WIRE