BATON ROUGE -- The sixth-seed LSU women's basketball team gave No. 3-seed Louisville all it could handle on Tuesday night in the Maravich Center, but the Cardinals duo of Angel McCoughtry and Candyce Bingham was enough to get the Cardinals to the Sweet 16, 62-52.
Louisville (31-4), known for its full-court defense and transition offense, advanced to face No. 2-seed Baylor in Memphis on Saturday.
With a roster of six freshmen and only one senior, LSU (19-11) had its record streak of five-consecutive Women's Final Fours come to an end.
It wasn't without a fight -- a half-court one.
What was thought to be a game defined by how LSU handled Louisville's full-court press turned out to be a half-court game. LSU committed only seven turnovers, while Louisville had 13.
Junior Allison Hightower again paced LSU's offensive attack, making 6-of-14 shots and 9-of-12 free throws for 21 points. She added five assists and two steals.
In the half-court, the long and fluid McCoughtry was difficult for LSU's "team defense" to stop.
She scored a game-high 28 points on 9-of-22 shooting and 10-of-11 free throws, while Bingham added 17 points.
The rest of the Cardinals were 6-of-15 shooting for 17 points. Louisville shot 45.1 percent from the field (23 of 51) and 15-of-17 from the line.
LSU survived Louisville's 1-2-2 full-court press for the first 10 minutes, keeping the game tied at 14-14 despite losing starter LaSondra Barrett with two fouls less than four minutes into the contest.
Meanwhile LSU's defense forced five turnovers and took its first lead, 19-16, since the opening basket with consecutive jumpers by Morris.
Hightower scored three baskets for LSU to expand the advantage to five, 25-20. However, McCoughtry and Bingham combined for a 9-0 Cardinals run that put the Lady Tigers behind at the break, 33-29.
Despite leaving the court with an injured hand, McCoughtry quickly returned and scored Louisville's first four points of the second half. Bingham added a transition basket in the paint that put the Cardinals ahead, 39-33.
Hightower led LSU's comeback, scoring a jumper off the glass against a triple-team in the post and hitting a free throw that got LSU within three. Barrett converted a turnover into a layup and Hightower added another basket that gave LSU its first lead of the second half, 40-39.
Another layup by Barrett gave the Lady Tigers their final lead of the game, 42-41. But Louisville point guard Deseree' Byrd's jumper in the paint -- the first by a Cardinal other than McCoughtry and Bingham in 20 minutes of action -- started a 10-3 run that LSU couldn't overcome.
A three pointer by Louisville guard Becky Burke put the Cardinals up by seven, 54-47, with under six minutes to play.
LSU got no closer.
Guard Allison Hightower
On what happened in the second half ...
“(Louisville) kept getting offensive rebounds and I think that really hurt us and we sent them to the free throw line way too much. They got easy points off of free throws. Once you give them those two things, you’re kind of down.”
On if she felt like she had to take over the game ...
“I think I did the same thing I was doing Sunday. I wasn’t trying to take over or anything like that, but I was trying to stay aggressive and if the shot was there I was going to take it. They did a pretty good job on the box-and-one and their mixed defenses. I think I was playing like I normally play.”
Forward Kristen Morris
On playing her last game at LSU ...
“I’m sad, but I want to make sure my teammates are O.K. and they remember to work hard. Like Coach Starkey mentioned in the locker room, the offseason starts now, so they have to get focused and get their mind ready to get better because they have a chance to be really, really good next year. I’m just thankful for the opportunity I had to play here.”
On guarding Louisville forward Angel McCoughtry ...
“It was tough. She’s a great player. I discussed yesterday that it would be hard to take her out of her game completely. She got 28 points tonight and we knew she would get at least 20, but I think Candyce (Bingham) hurt us a little bit; we didn’t want her to get as many as 17, but also we got out-rebounded by Little way too much and sent her to the line way too much. We lost the battle of the boards and we turned the ball over a lot and that’s basically what it boiled down to.”
LOUISVILLE HEAD COACH JEFF WALZ
“First, I’d like to congratulate LSU. (LSU Head Coach) Van (Chancellor) did a great job preparing his kids for our press. If you would have told me before the game that LSU would have 12 assists and seven turnovers, I would have told you we were in for a long night. They came out and were by far the best team that’s been prepared to play us this season. We were even able to force UConn into some turnovers. They did an outstanding job, but I was so proud of our kids because we had been told all year that we couldn’t play a half-court game. We executed against a great defensive team and really hit some big shots in some big times.”
On his team’s rebounding advantage and free throw shooting...
“We had stressed that we had to rebound the basketball. In the first half, I think we had four offensive boards and that’s just not what we do. We had to make a focus of trying to hit the offensive glass. We know that LSU does an outstanding job of rebounding also. I thought that (F) Mary Jackson, who came in the game for only a minute, but picked up two offensive rebounds, he play was really big for us. Keisha Hines came up with one late in the game. You’ve got to dig down and really try to make an effort late in the game, especially when you play a team as talented as LSU.
“And then from the free throw line – I couldn’t be more excited for Keisha Hines who didn’t shoot more than 48 percent last year to hit two big free throws late in the game. We expect Angel (McCoughtry) to make hers, but Becky Burke, even though she only scored five points, but she hit a big three-pointer and then was able to draw a foul with only three seconds left on the shot clock and make both shots.”
On the performance of F Angel McCoughtry...
“That’s what she does. There’s a reason she’s about to be a three-time All-American. I think it was an eight-point game when she had that steal and layup. Then she came up with a big offensive board with about a minute-and-a-half left. She picks her times really well. In the first half I had to calm her down some because she was trying to gamble on some things, but in the second half I thought she relaxed a little bit more. It’s no secret, we run a lot of stuff for her. I’m not dumb, so I try to run a lot of stuff for her. I never said I was smart, but I’m not dumb.”
LSU Locker Room Quotes
Guard Katherine Graham
On guarding Angel McCoughtry...
“She is very hard to guard because she has no weakness in her offense. She can drive, she can shoot and she can penetrate. I had a lot of help from my teammates.”
On being able to play in front of a home crowd...
“It is always nice to play at home because you get the support of your fans, which is big, especially in an NCAA Tournament.”
Forward LaSondra Barrett
On the game against Louisville...
“I think we fought hard, but Louisville is a really good team, one of the top teams in the country. We gave it all we could, and it didn’t turn out our way, but we have a lot of things to look forward to in the future.”
On what she learned from the game ...
“This is a learning experience. Each game you see something new and this is our motivation to start in the off-season to get stronger. With how we finished this season and how young we are, anything is possible.”
G Angel McCoughtry
On making it back to Sweet 16 in hostile environment...
“Well it feels great right now. I know last year it felt great too, but last year we lost in the Sweet 16. That didn’t feel good. We don’t want to feel that feeling again. We want to get as far as we can and continue to make history with this program.”
On having to be patient against LSU...
“Well we realized it was going to be this kind of game when LSU beat Wisconsin. We had to come in prepared and battle and play as hard as we can. That’s how it goes. We just play hard and whatever the score is at the end is the score. Luckily, for us, we came out and won this one.”
On outrebounding LSU...
“You have to win these games getting rebounds, making free throws and executing. You have to do those three things this time of year. I think we did well in that today.”
G Candyce Bingham
On having to be patient against LSU...
“That’s how it is this time of the year. It’s the NCAA. If they take one thing away, you just have to find a way to come back with another thing. That’s what we do. We play composed and find a way to win.”
On outrebounding LSU...
“Coach really stressed rebounding last year and again this year. To win games you have to get rebounds and make free throws, and we did that tonight.”
On half court execution tonight...
“We did execute in crucial parts of the game. That’s what it’s about. You have to execute in crucial parts of the game, and I think we did a good job of that tonight.”
On moving on to next round...
“We plan on taking it further. Last year we lost. We think we have a pretty good chance of winning the next game.”
Louisville Locker Room Quotes
Guard Deseree’ Byrd
On her team’s defensive performance...
“The key was our defense. Although they came down and scored a couple times, once we started getting consecutive stops we started hitting big shots on the offensive end. Becky Burke hit a big three. Overall, our defense was the key to getting the win.”
On what she thinks her team’s biggest asset is...
“It is heart. Everybody on this team has heart. We take pride in what we do on the court. I have to give big ups to my teammates. Our bench came in and was a big spark. We showed a lot of heart.”
Center Keshia Hines
On what was the key to tonight’s victory...
“We were clutch with our rebounding and at free throws. Everybody accomplished their roles and we executed our game plan, particularly in the final minutes which is why we came out on top.”