NEW ORLEANS LSU coach Van Chancellor can thank Sylvia Fowles for his first trip to a Final Four.
Fowles had 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, lifting LSU to a 56-50 victory over top-seeded North Carolina on Monday night. The victory sent the second-seeded Lady Tigers (31-5) to their fifth Final Four in as many seasons. Only Connecticut also has made five straight trips to the Final Four, and no team has made six.
"We knew it was our last year and we wanted to go all out," said Fowles, named the most outstanding player of the New Orleans regional.
For North Carolina (33-3), forced to play before a hostile crowd wearing purple and gold, the loss snapped a 16-game winning streak and left the Tar Heels one victory short of a third straight Final Four appearance.
LaToya Pringle led the Tar Heels with 21 points, all but two coming in the second half, but it was not enough as the rest of her team combined for 10 points after the break.
North Carolina came in with five players averaging double figures in scoring, but Pringle was the only one to eclipse 10. Rashanda McCants scored nine, and Jessica Breland eight.
"Defense has been our bread and butter all year," Fowles said. "We knew if we came out here and played defense our offense would pick up. We've played great defense the last few years."
After the buzzer sounded, LSU's band broke into a brass favorite often heard during Mardi Gras and second line parades in New Orleans, and LSU's players danced together at center court. Then they cut down the nets, and Chancellor pointed at his players and smiled widely before making his cut.
"I tried to say it didn't matter I've never been to a Final Four, but it feels great," said Chancellor, who said he shed a few tears after the victory. "This is just unbelievable."
Chancellor, already a Hall of Fame coach, spent 19 years at Mississippi, reaching four regional finals. He then moved on to the WNBA, where he won four titles with the Houston Comets. He also won a FIBA world championship in 2002 and Olympic gold in 2004 before a brief retirement.
That ended when LSU, a team with eight seniors including all five starters needed a coach because of the resignation last year of Pokey Chatman amid reports that she once had an improper relationship with a player no longer with the team.Chancellor came in and guided LSU to an SEC regular season title, and the Lady Tigers ended up getting a second seed after losing to Tennessee in the championship game of the SEC tournament.
STANFORD 98, MARYLAND 87: At Spokane, Candice Wiggins scored 41 points and got some help from unlikely sources as the second-seeded Cardinal pulled away from No. 1-seed Maryland on Monday night in the Spokane Regional final.
Playing with a swagger and confidence bred from Stanford being denied a No. 1 seed in the tournament, the Cardinal are back in the Final Four for the first time in 11 years. They will face either Connecticut or Rutgers in the national semifinals in Tampa.