Lady Tigers Win 5th Straight, Take SEC's 3rd Seed

Lady Tigers Win 5th Straight, Take SEC's 3rd Seed

POSTED: Sunday, March 1, 2009 - 6:40pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:57pm

LSU head coach Van Chancellor and freshman forward LaSondra Barrett made their returns to the state of Mississippi a special one Sunday. Barrett led all scorers with 18 points, and the LSU women’s basketball team wrapped up third place in the Southeastern Conference standings with its fifth straight win, 59-48, over Ole Miss at Tad Smith Coliseum.

The Lady Tigers (17-9, 10-4 SEC) recorded double-digit conference wins for the seventh straight season and the ninth time in program history. LSU, the No. 3 seed, will take on the winner of No. 6 seed Mississippi State versus No. 11 seed South Carolina in the second round of the 2009 SEC Tournament at 9 p.m. CST Friday at Alltel Arena in North Little Rock, Ark.

“If you would have told me when we were 5-4 and we had Tennessee, Georgia and Florida left to play, I would have not thought this was possible,” LSU head coach Van Chancellor said. “These kids have played great defense and I am so proud of them. For this group of players to finish third in the SEC is one of the most amazing things I have seen. Everyone has accepted their role and done everything they needed to do. We are very excited. It’s a great time to be an LSU fan.”

LSU finished third outright in the conference regular season standings following the Lady Tigers’ win in Oxford and Florida’s 84-75 loss to Georgia in Athens on Sunday. The Gators finished at 9-5 in league play. Ole Miss finished its regular season at 16-13 overall, 5-9 in SEC play and lost to LSU for the third straight time.

The Lady Tigers prove to be the league’s hottest team having won eight out of their last 10 games and surely earning an 11th straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, which begins March 22 in Baton Rouge.

Barrett, a native of Jackson, Miss., had 12 of her 18 points in the second half and finished 8-of-15 from the field. Senior forward Kristen Morris chipped in 11 points and junior guard Allison Hightower reached double figures for the 14th straight game with 12 points and a career-high-tying seven assists.

“Barrett is one of the best players in this league today,” said Chancellor, who coached for 19 seasons at Ole Miss. “This wasn’t about my return to Ole Miss. This was about our players and doing what we have to do to make the NCAA Tournament and get the No. 3 seed in SEC Tournament. It was great to see a lot of familiar faces and great to get a win.”

Defensively, LSU held the Rebels to 28.8 percent from the floor on 17-of-59 shooting. The Lady Tigers picked up nine steals and forced 14 turnovers.

LSU led by as many as 17 points with 9:04 to play following back-to-back baskets by Courtney Jones. Ole Miss climbed within seven points, 47-40, with a 10-0 run, but Hightower and Morris made layups to push the lead back to double-digits with 4:00 remaining.

Kayla Melson led the Rebels with 13 points and Bianca Thomas added 12 points.

All five LSU starters scored in the first half as the Lady Tigers took a 28-22 lead into the locker room. Ayana Dunning came off the bench for six points, including four free throws in the final 35 seconds.

The Lady Tigers made their first three shots when Katherine Graham, Barrett and Hightower all connected on jumpers to give LSU an early 6-0 lead. Ole Miss responded with a 10-0 run to jump ahead by four, putting LSU behind for the first time in four games since Feb. 8.

However, the Lady Tigers regained control when Morris knocked down consecutive baskets near the 13-minute mark. Hightower then picked up a steal, drove the length of the floor and drew a foul on a successful layup that made it 14-10 with 11:32 to play.

LSU held its largest lead of the first half when Dunning – coming off the bench – tossed in a layup with 4:41 remaining in the half.