DURHAM, N.C. - Sophomore forward LaSondra Barrett scored a game-high 20 points and the seventh-seeded LSU women's basketball advanced past 10th-seeded Hartford with its 13th-straight NCAA tournament first round win by a score of 60-39 on Saturday afternoon in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
LSU (21-9), ranked 21st in the Associated Press Top 25, will take on second-seeded Duke at 6 p.m. CT Monday on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com. The host Blue Devils were a 72-37 winner over 15th-seeded Hampton in their first round contest. LSU last lost in the first round in 1990 and the nation-leading streak of 13 began in 1991.
The Lady Tigers smothered Hartford (27-5) on the offensive end, holding the America East conference regular season champions to 29.6 percent for the game. LSU, the Southeastern Conference's top defense for the sixth straight year, yielded 40 points or less for the 10th time this season.
"Every time Hartford made a run at us, I thought our kids did a great job of responding to the run and answering the call," LSU head coach Van Chancellor said. "Our defense was pretty good today. That's the best it's been in a while."
Barrett added eight rebounds and finished 10-of-11 at the free throw line. LSU shot 23-of-30 from the line as a team, while the Hawks were only 4-of-7 from the charity stripe. Senior guard Allison Hightower and sophomore forward Courtney Jones scored 10 points apiece.
Junior guard Katherine Graham grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to go along with seven points, four assists and three steals.
Hartford scored the game's first four points but LSU responded with 17 unanswered points. LSU's defense smothered Diana Delva, the America East Player of the Year, in the game's first 20 minutes. Delva only attempted two shots and the Hawks committed 13 first-half turnovers.
"At the beginning of the game our game plan was to double No. 40 (Diana Delva) the whole time," Chancellor said. "We said the two things we have to do to win the game are to double [Delva] every time she touched the ball and rebound. We got to the timeout and we were able to adjust it and we didn't have our positioning right. She is a very good player who I think could play in the SEC any day."
Jones converted a reverse layup on an assist from Graham. Hightower and Graham hit on layups to culminate the 17-0 run at the 12:07 mark. Nikkia Smith's short jumper finally put the Hawks back on the board but not before going cold from the floor for nearly eight minutes.
Barrett took advantage at the free throw line with two made shots and followed that up with a jumper in the final minute to give LSU its largest lead of the half, 29-13. The Lady Tigers led 29-15 at the break.
LSU put the game away midway through the second half with a 13-0 spurt. Hightower hit on back-to-back buckets that made it 44-21. Destini Hughes then buried LSU's only 3-pointer of the game on a wide-open look from the right wing.
During the run, Hartford coach Jennifer Rizzotti earned a technical foul. She would be ejected five minutes later with 7:27 to go after picking up her second technical. Barrett's two made free throws off the technical lifted the LSU advantage to 55-29.
Chancellor lifted his starters under the seven-minute mark. LSU finished at 32.1 percent from the floor and forced the Hawks into 17 turnovers. Delva led Hartford with 12 points.
LSU Head Coach Van Chancellor
"Anytime you win a NCAA Tournament game you feel very fortunate. I thought that Hartford would reflect Jennifer (Rizzotti)-hard-nosed and tough. They had a great year. I think it really hurt them when No. 34 (Erica Beverly) got hurt for the year. We are very fortunate to win. I think our starting five played well together and played good defense.
What changes did you make to your defense after the beginning set?
"At the beginning of the game our game plan was to double No. 40 (Diana Delva) the whole time. We said the two things we have to do to win the game are to double [Delva] every time she touched the ball and rebound. We got to the timeout and we were able to adjust it and we didn't have our positioning right. She is a very good player who I think could play in the SEC any day."
On the four point play.
"I called Katherine Graham over and said you have been everything I want on the floor but you just turned the ball over and gave up a four-point play. You owe me six points. Can you get me some points back? She is the kind of kid you can challenge and the easiest to coach."
Senior guard Allison Hightower
On the beginning stretch after being down by four the team went on a run. How important was that for the team?
"It was very important for us to contain them. Because our jumpers weren't falling so we had to step it up on defense and do the little things until the jumpers started to fall."
Sophomore forward Lasondra Barrett
On the team theme of Keep Pressing?
"Keep Pressing is just a term that we use for everybody to become aware whether we are up or we're down to keep doing whatever we are doing. It is just a motivational key."
How can you explain the inconsistence on this year team?
"It is very frustrating because we know what we are capable of. It's like coach is always telling us if we play like we played tonight we can beat any team in the country. It is just a mindset that everybody on the team needs to have. Just concentrate on the game plan and the task at hand. When the entire team has that mindset we are a very dangerous team.
Hartford Head Coach Jennifer Rizzotti
"Well, obviously we are disappointed; I mean there is a lot to reflect back on over the season, and how wonderful it was, and how well our team has played and the new heights that they have reached but every team wants to end their season with a win, and so it is disappointing to feel like we didn't really play our best, but I told the girls in the locker room that I am really proud of the way the conducted themselves over the course of the year, and how they came together to be a nationally ranked team, and to be the first at-large team to ever play in the NCAA Tournament from Hartford. We earned the right to be here; it wasn't given to us, and we are really proud of that."
On LSU's defense and pressure:
"It's tough to simulate a team like LSU and what they can do defensively. We worked pretty hard in practice this week to try and get them to understand what it was going to be like. Sometimes it really takes that real game experience. I feel like we settled down a little bit better in the second half and we did get some open looks. It was a matter of guys needing to step up and knock them down. So their defense is great. They're a tremendous team. We've always preached that defense can take you as far as you want it to, and I do think that that's the case with them. Whoever they end up playing on Monday night, they sure can end up giving them fits with what they do on defense, and then when they come out and make some shots offensively, they've proven why they finished fourth in the SEC."
On Diana Delva's last game for Hartford:
"As far as Diana goes, I really couldn't be more proud of her. We've asked a lot of her in her career, and she's really separated herself as one of the all-time greats. It's a pretty big compliment when a player from Hartford is being triple teamed by a team in the SEC, and they decided to make someone else beat them, and she still had 12 points and 7 rebounds, and it says three blocks but I think it was more like 5 or 6. She's the one guy on the floor that was getting paid the most attention on either team. So, I'm just proud of what she did for herself to turn herself into what I think is a next level player, but also how much better she made her teammates around her. She should've had about 7 or 8 assists today if anybody could make a shot. She got guys shots, she played with confidence, she demanded the ball, and she never stopped working on the glass. She's meant so much to our program on and off the floor. Like Jackie [Smith] said about Erica [Beverly], those two kids are tough to replace. You don't replace them, but you hope that the young guys learned enough from them that they hold themselves with the same kind of confidence and dignity and play as hard as Diana and Erica did their whole senior year."
On moving forward after one of Hartford's most successful seasons:
"I'd like to think that my competiveness has rubbed off on them because I can say that but they're still pretty disappointed. When we sit down in a month for our end of season banquet and really reflect over it, I think they'll maybe sense it then, but they're pretty hungry already. I asked them what they were frustrated and disappointed about: missed shots, turning the ball over, not rotating the ball, basically lack of intensity. And I said, so basically everything you could control and you didn't. So we didn't go in the locker room 'ra-ra,' we didn't go and say 'congratulations,' we talked about how we're going to be better. We went in the locker room and talked about wasting an opportunity and about having an attitude. LSU's players have all played in the NCAA Tournament other than their freshmen, and they all came in the tournament with an expectation to win. This is the only kid I have with any NCAA Tournament experience. After today, I have 9 or 10 others, so maybe to have an understanding of what it means to be in the NCAA Tournament and how you play, carry yourself, and take each possession. Hopefully our young guys learned that today, and we'll come back next year and be a little more prepared."
On LSU's defense and pressure:
Freshman Forward Jackie Smith
"They're a really quick, athletic team. They play really great defense. They were really shooting the gaps on us, and pressured is coming off ball screens. They did a great job on us; they're long and they're fast. Their defensive intensity just out worked us today."
Senior Forward/Center Diana Delva
"Same thing, they're really aggressive, and they're really athletic. They got out into a lot of passing lanes and stole some passes and were able to get going in transition. That gave them some momentum for the game and their athleticism and defensive intensity, definitely."
On Teams adjustment to playing without Senior Forward Erica Beverly:
Senior Center Diana Delva
"I think the impact that Erica has on our team was definitely missed in the past two games, but I feel that as a team we were able to come together and find a way to do without her whether it comes from people knocking down shots or grabbing a rebound. We tried to pull together and make up for what she brings to the team."
Freshman Jackie Smith
"Erica's a player that you can never replace. She makes such a big impact on every aspect of the game. The past two games we've gotten beaten on the boards and I think it's evident that we don't have Erica out there because of that."
On this being Diana [Delva's] last collegiate game:
Senior Diana Delva
"It hasn't really hit me yet; I'm still a little shocked, but my experience here has been amazing. The players, the coaches, the school has really helped me to become a better player and a better person. This year with being ranked and having our win streak and everything was amazing. I will never forget my experiences here. It still hasn't hit me that it's all over, but it was a good experience."