29-4, 13-1 Away
19-10, 11-6 Home

Hightower scores 26 as LSU moves on to second round

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Allison Hightower's career-best scoring effort came at a good time for a young LSU team short on NCAA tournament experience.

Hightower scored 26 points and sixth-seeded LSU advanced to the second round of the Raleigh Regional with a 69-59 victory Sunday night over 11th-seeded Wisconsin-Green Bay, which had won 21 in a row.

"I wasn't trying to do anything that I haven't been doing," Hightower said. "The shots just went in."

Hightower, a junior who set her previous high with 23 points earlier this month, had 20 points in the first half.

"Once she made about the first five baskets, I thought the best coaching would be no coaching," LSU head coach Van Chancellor said. "I think one thing coaches do sometimes is over-coach. I wanted to make sure I didn't bother her."

Kristen Morris added 13 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for LSU (19-10), which led by as much as 20 and by double digits most of the second half.

The inside presence of Morris, one of LSU's bigger players at 6-foot-2, helped LSU emerge with a 34-30 edge in rebounds.

"I just went for everything, put a body on somebody and went to go get it," Morris said." With teams like this that are smaller than me, you should expect someone who's 6-2 should be able to dominate the boards and that's what I did."

Kati Hardy scored 17 points for Green Bay (29-4), which hadn't lost since falling at DePaul on Dec. 29. Reserve Kayla Tetschlag added 16.

"Obviously Hightower and her first half, and even the second half, put us on our heels a little bit," Green Bay coach Matt Bollant said. "A couple of times I felt like we played great defense, and Hightower just kind of elevated over us and made shots. I'm not sure we had an answer for her jumping over us when we were in the right position. Give her a lot of credit, and give LSU a lot of credit for coming ready to play and playing great as a team."

Unlike the LSU squads that appeared in the last five Final Fours, this version of the Lady Tigers didn't have a single player who'd started an NCAA tournament game. Hightower wasn't short on postseason experience, however. She was a primary reserve on LSU's previous two Final Four teams.

She was 8-for-10 from the free-throw line and made both 3s she attempted, but cramps slowed Hightower down during the later portions of the second half.

"You have to treat every game like it is your last because it might just be your last game come tournament play," Hightower said.

She got a standing ovation when she checked out of the game, having played 36 intense minutes. She was dehydrated and needed to be given fluids intravenously.

"Whenever she's got the ball she does all the ball-handling. When the other team has the ball she's guarding the player who's running everywhere and anywhere," Chancellor said. "We've got to cut her minutes down by two in each half, but it's hard to take out a woman who's doing like she's doing."

LSU went on to its 12th straight NCAA tournament victory on its home court. It was also the 12th straight first-round triumph for the Lady Tigers. LSU hasn't lost a first-round game since falling to Southern Mississippi in 1990.

LaSondra Barrett added 13 points for the Lady Tigers, who were slated to play again on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday's late game between No. 14 seed Liberty and third-seeded Louisville.

Green Bay, champions of the Horizon League, played a weaker schedule than LSU, hence the lower seeding despite a better overall record. The Phoenix's senior-laden lineup hardly seemed intimidated by meeting the Lady Tigers on their home floor.

When Hightower hit a tough turnaround jumper and a 3-pointer during a 7-0 surge that gave LSU an 11-7 lead, Green Bay came right back with inside baskets from Tetschlag and Lavesa Glover to tie it.

But shots kept falling for Hightower, who appeared right away to be on the verge of a big night. She scored the next six points of the game on three free throws and a runner from behind the 3-point line as the shot clock wound down, giving her 13 points in the first 9:45 of the game.

Hightower later added a steal that she converted into fast-break layup, two free throws and a jumper, staking LSU to a 35-25 halftime lead.