Monday, January 29, 2007

Fowles Freethrow Sink Auburn

A couple of possessions were all that stood between the LSU women’s basketball team and blowing Auburn out of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center midway through Sunday’s Southeastern Conference game.
With the Lady Tigers holding an 18-point lead, All-American center Sylvia Fowles misfired on several attempts from point-blank range, looking skyward in disgust.
Not to worry, though.
Instead of Fowles putting Auburn away from within five feet of the basket, the 6-foot-6 junior did so 15 feet away with solid free-throw shooting that helped push eight-ranked LSU on a late run and carry the Lady Tigers to 65-45 victory before a crowd of 5,362.
“We’ve put a lot of focus on that,” Fowles said of free-throw shooting. “We know it’s going to happen and we’ve got to make free throws.”
Fowles and Ashley Thomas combined to make 7-of-8 foul shots to ignite the key 11-0 surge that enabled LSU to pull away from Auburn (15-7, 2-4), which had closed to within 10 points (47-37) with 7:01 to play.
“It was 18 (point lead) and it was time to put your foot on the back of their neck if you can and we did not,” LSU women’s coach Pokey Chatman said. “I credit Auburn with their ability to claw and scrap. But it was nice to see once the lead got down we were able to re-establish ourselves on both ends of the floor at the same time.”
LSU (20-2, 6-1) distanced itself enough to run its homecourt win streak to 42 games — the nation’s best. The Lady Tigers also moved into sole possession of second place in the SEC after Mississippi State upset No. 22 Ole Miss, 73-71.
“The free throws really hurt us and our lack of being able to shoot a free throw hurt us also,” Auburn women’s coach Nell Fortner said. “If we could have kept them off the line we might have been able to keep it a little closer, but we just couldn’t get much of an offensive flow going and that was the hardest thing for us.”
Success at the free-throw line was just a part of Fowles’ ninth consecutive double-double, 15th of the season and 50th of her career.
Fowles left with 3:21 to play and LSU holding a 60-39 lead after making a pair of free throws — capping a 9-of-12 effort for someone shooting 64 percent for the season. She also came within two rebounds of matching her career high, pulling down 20 — split evenly between offense and defense.
“Those chippies I missed, I should have made,” said Fowles, noting her 5-of-13 shooting from the field. “It could have been better. I should have knocked down more shots and eventually that’s going to happen.”
Chatman simply applauded Fowles’ attack-mentality on the boards, allowing LSU to hold a 43-33 advantage and score 13 second-chance points.
“I liked Sylvia’s effort,” Chatman said. “It was obviously more aggressive from the beginning, in the middle and toward the end. The difference is that she missed the chippies, but she rebounded them. She didn’t hang her head and was active defensively.”
LSU surrounded Fowles’ production with good balance with junior Quianna Chaney scoring 17 points — 10 coming after halftime — and Thomas reaching 11 points for the second straight game. She added five rebounds and four steals.
“That’s nice to see,” Chatman said of her team’s scoring balance. “It’s a matter of taking what the defense gives you sometimes and taking what you’re capable of earning. That’s the intelligent part of running offense.”
LSU’s 11-0 surge — which lasted nearly three minutes — culminated on Chaney’s hook shot in the lane for a 58-37 advantage with 3:56 to go. The Lady Tigers went on to lead by as many as 22 points, the last time at 65-43 with 30.5 seconds left on Kristen Morris’ lay-up.
Once again LSU’s defense was up to its usual standard, limiting Auburn to 18 first-half points (a 30-18 halftime lead), a season-low final point total and 33 percent shooting. The opposition, which was led by guard Whitney Boddie’s 14 points, had its three leading scorers held under their season’s average, with forward DeWanna Bonner — the league’s fifth-leading scorer at 16 points, equaling her season-low of six points on 2-of-7 shooting.
“In the team concept I thought we did a real good job of defending Auburn,” Chatman said. “We wanted to be a bit more aggressive on the glass and I thought we did a good job there and our ability to take care of the basketball.”
LSU defeated Auburn for seventh time in their last eight meetings. … LSU held an opponent to 20 points or less in the opening half for the 14th time this season. … LSU returns home Feb. 1 to face Florida at 8 p.m.

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