No. 6 California 73, LSU 63

Playing short-handed finally caught up with LSU as California
ran away in the second half, bringing to a close a surprising
late-season surge by the Lady Tigers.

Layshia Clarendon scored 19 points to lead California a 73-63
victory over LSU on Saturday night, sending the Bears to the
regional finals for the first time in program history.

Gennifer Brandon had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Brittany
Boyd added 14 points for second-seeded Cal (31-3), which will play
Georgia in the Spokane Regional final Monday night.

”It stings a little bit. You want to continue on,” LSU guard
Adrienne Webb said. ”You don’t really want to think about the odds
of, `OK, what happens when my season comes to an end?’
Unfortunately, mine has come short.”

Theresa Plaisance had 15 points and 12 rebounds for sixth-seeded
LSU (22-12), and Webb also scored 15. The Lady Tigers were in the
game until a scoring drought late in the second half ended their
chances. They were seeking their first berth in the round of eight
since 2008.

”Our intensity might have slacked up a little bit. We came out
a little flat and fought our way back, but I mean, we were putting
them to the line and they were knocking down free throws,” Webb
said. ”And I really think that we fought hard at times, but it was
like we flipped on and off. We came up, we turned our intensity all
the way up and then we took off some possessions.”

LSU got the services of guard Jeanne Kenney back after she
missed the Lady Tigers’ second round win over Penn State with a
concussion. Kenney was cleared after shootaround to play and ended
up with playing 26 minutes before fouling out. She finished 2 of 9
shooting for six points and four assists.

”We got leadership,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. ”Jeanne
is one of those players, her stat line doesn’t show a lot of
points, she doesn’t get a whole lot of rebounds, but her leadership
is always there.”

Kenney also provided another body for Caldwell to use. The
Tigers got to the regional semifinals by knocking off Penn State
with just seven healthy players. Kenney provided depth, but even
that was tested in the second half as California pushed the pace
and started to pull away.

Tied at 26 at halftime, the Golden Bears opened the second half
on an 8-2 run to take a 34-28 lead. But Adrienne Webb, Shanece
McKinney and Bianca Lutley scored consecutive baskets for LSU to
tie the score at 34.

That was the final surge the Lady Tigers would make. Mikayla
Miles hit a 3-pointer to cap a 9-2 run that gave Cal a 46-40 lead.
Brandon sank two free throws and a scored inside as the Bears took
a 54-45 advantage, their biggest lead to that point, with 7:44
left. Boyd’s 3-pointer pushed Cal’s lead to 58-46 with 5:20
left.

LSU, meanwhile, went more than five minutes without a field goal
and fell behind 62-46. Webb finally broke LSU’s field goal drought
with 2:28 left in the game, but by then the Lady Tigers trailed
64-49. California then scored its final 11 points at the free-throw
line.

”I’m kind of in awe of this whole thing. I’m so excited for
this whole team to be going to the Elite Eight,” Cal coach Lindsay
Gottlieb said. ”I can’t say enough about how tough LSU is and how
gritty and how remarkable a run they’ve had.”

LSU wasn’t helped by its struggles from the perimeter. The Lady
Tigers missed their first eight 3-point attempts in the second
half, only to hit the final one – their only 3 of the game.
Plaisance and Kenney fouled out in the closing minutes. LSU lacked
the depth to match the physical interior play and key outside
shooting from the Golden Bears.

LSU shot nearly 39 percent, but committed 16 turnovers and
missed a number of inside shots near the basket in the second
half.

”But those missed shots, those missed gimmies, there was quite
a few of them that we missed,” Caldwell said. ”And our team
needed to think, `and one.’ And so when you’re thinking that way,
you’re not worrying about whether or not you get the call or not. I
thought we missed a lot of those gimmies.”