March 27, 2006
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -Seimone Augustus gave her old neighborhood - and all the rest of Baton Rouge - another reason to celebrate.
Two days after her middle-school AAU teammate Glen "Big Baby" Davis and other longtime pals got the LSU men into the Final Four, Augustus did the same for the Lady Tigers in quite a memorable way.
She scored 17 of her 26 points in the second half, then drew the game-saving charge with 4.8 seconds left, sending LSU past Stanford 62-59 Monday night in the finals of the San Antonio Regional.
While LSU will be the seventh school to have its men's and women's teams playing in the Final Four, Augustus' focus is going out on top. The nation's scoring leader and reigning national player of the year got this far the last two years also, but the senior has yet to win it all - or even reach the title game.
"It's just a great opportunity in front of us, to take advantage of it and end on a high note," she said. "That's the key, end with a win at the end of the season."
Augustus carried LSU (31-3) in the second half with the determination of someone not wanting her career to end. She hit several clutch baskets, many coming after landing hard on her back while grabbing a rebound. Then, with the Lady Tigers up 60-59 and Stanford star Candice Wiggins driving, she set her feet in the way and drew a charge.
Her reaction was priceless: Laying prone, she kicked her feet and shook her fists for several seconds while the Cardinal (26-8) begged for a blocking call.
"I mean, Seimone was planted," LSU coach Pokey Chatman said. "It was one of those things where it was do or die. ... I thought it was ironic that one of the best offensive players in the game made a defensive stop."
Stanford was especially upset because Wiggins passed the ball to Krista Rappahahn, who made a 3-pointer that of course didn't count.
"It is disappointing to get this close and to see the ball go in the basket and then have it taken away from you," Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer
said. "I just think that's a really tough way to lose a game. It really surprised me that that would be called then. ... It seems at that point it would be a no-call."
Back on the LSU campus, the guys certainly were watching and hollering. When Augustus called star forward Tyrus Thomas to congratulate him after the men's team advanced Saturday, he said: "Y'all have to do your part. We've done our part."
The men play Saturday in Indianapolis. The women play Sunday in Boston against the winner of Tuesday night's game between Connecticut and Duke.
"As good as this feels, we're not done yet," said point guard Erica White, who had 14 points and seven assists.
For all of Augustus' big baskets, White was a huge factor in the second half, too. She was especially good at driving the lane and taking advantage of the defense sagging toward Augustus and center Sylvia Fowles, providing the third scoring option LSU lacked in going into halftime down by five.
"They weren't guarding me to begin with and when I cut they really lost me," White said. "I made it a point to get to open areas. The open areas just happened to be right at the basket."
Fowles finished with 11 points and 17 rebounds.
The game ended with LSU's Scholanda Hoston stealing the ball from Stanford's Brooke Smith. Hoston was so ready to celebrate that she threw it high with about 3 seconds left. Smith fell to the ground, banging her hands in disgust, and teammate Kristen Newlin wrapped her arms around her head in disbelief.
The Lady Tigers bounced up and down as if they'd won more than a regional final. Augustus gave Chatman a hug that lifted the former point guard off the ground. Then Fowles lifted Chatman even higher.
Although Stanford was ousted in the regional finals for the third straight year - again coming a game shy of its first Final Four since 1997 - this was a great season. The Cardinal were supposed to be in transition from last year's team that went into the tournament No. 1 and a team that's expected to be among the preseason favorites next year.
"I think that as a team we've come a tremendously long way since November and December," said Brooke Smith, who had 14 points on 7-of-16 shooting after making 14-of-16 for a career-best 35 in the previous game. "But I don't think that makes this loss more acceptable or makes it hurt any less."
Wiggins led Stanford with 23 points, including a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left. The Cardinal made only two field goals in the last 6:30, a drought proved to be the difference - especially with them also missing three free throws in the final minute.
The other schools to have men's and women's teams in the Final Four in the same year are Georgia (1983), Duke (1999), Oklahoma (2002), Texas ('03), Connecticut ('04) and Michigan State ('05).
Only Connecticut pulled off the title sweep; in fact, none of the other teams won either the men's or women's titles.