Home is where the semis are: LSU to make short trip

Noah Seligman

New Orleans has been a sweet spot for LSU sports this year.

After the football team won the Sugar Bowl to win a share of the national championship in January, the women’s basketball team takes its shot at an NCAA title this week in the Big Easy.

The Tigers (27-7) won the West Regional as a four-seed en route to the program’s first Final Four appearance.

Previously, LSU held the distinction of having the most NCAA Tournament wins without an appearance in the Final Four with 19 victories.

Now, the Tigers play close to home. The proximity to campus benefits LSU in the tournament. New Orleans is only about 90 minutes away from campus in Baton Rouge.

“It’s a situation where we would like to expose college basketball to the state of Louisiana,” LSU assistant coach Bob Starkey said. “It’s something we’re excited about.”

Longtime head coach Sue Gunter took a medical leave of absence Feb. 19. Assistant coach Dana “Pokey” Chatman took the reins when Gunter left.

Heading into the Big Easy, LSU feels confident because games have lately come easy. The Bayou Bengals are 7-2 in their last nine games and outscoring opponents by an average of 13 during the tournament.

Sophomore guard Seimone Augustus and senior guard Temeka Johnson were both named to the All-Region team for the West Regional.

Augustus was also named the West Regional’s most outstanding player. She set a career high of 29 points in the win over Texas and matched it in a 62-60 victory over third-seeded Georgia in the Elite Eight, hitting 26-of-38 from the field in those two games.

Augustus played well enough to draw the future-of-women’s-basketball label, the best underclassmen in the land.

LSU had the second best scoring offense in the SEC averaging 73.9 points per game. The Tigers had the third best scoring defense in the conference, allowing an average of 62.5 points per game.

Johnson led the SEC with 8.3 APG and Augustus averaged 19.5 PPG, third best in the league.

The Tigers take on fellow SEC member Tennessee on Sunday at 6 p.m. in the first national semifinal game.

The two squads met only once this season with the Volunteers winning easily 85-62 on Feb. 29.

LSU finished second to Tennessee in the SEC. The Tigers were 10-4 in conference, and the Volunteers were a perfect 14-0 in SEC games.

“LSU and Tennessee have played some really outstanding games,” Starkey said. “It’s just a good rivalry. Both teams bring out the best in each other.”