NEW ORLEANS, LA -- Once she had simmered down, LSU point guard Erica White sat in front of her locker and said she was embarrassed by the in-game shouting match she had with Oklahoma State star Andrea Riley.
LSU center Sylvia Fowles then half-jokingly accused the 5-foot-3 White of having something akin to a Napoleon complex.
“It’s a little person’s syndrome,” the 6-6 Fowles said, chuckling. “Nobody can show her up without her wanting to do it better. … That’s what we love about her. She brings the fire. She brings the energy. That’s what makes us a great team.”
White scored 18 points and helped orchestrate a stifling defensive effort Saturday as the second-seeded Lady Tigers took a 67-52 victory over the third-seeded Cowgirls in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
LSU will face North Carolina in the regional finals on Monday night with a chance to go to a fifth straight Final Four.
LSU’s smallest player arguably had its toughest assignment in trying to defend Riley, who came in averaging 23 points. The two banged constantly and neither gave in, with Riley appearing to take a swipe at White’s head at one point in the second half, though no foul was called.
“I definitely thought I got hit out there, I’m not going to lie,” White said. “But at this level, people just want to win. I don’t necessarily think it’s personal. I think everyone just wants to win that bad.”
Riley wound up draining six 3-pointers and finished with 26 points for Oklahoma State (27-8), but missed 19 of her 28 shots in the process.
“It was just two guards being physical and trying to lead their teams to victory,” Riley said. “Things go like that sometimes. Everything was cool after the game because we left everything on the floor.”
Riley was the only OSU player to hit a field goal in the first half, when the Cowgirls shot 5-of-33, and by the time she began to get some help, it was too late.
RaShonta LeBlanc had 11 of her 13 points in the second half for LSU (30-5), while Fowles had 12 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.
“What happens is you beat that front line, and there’s Sylvia waiting on you, and she alters so many shots,” Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke said. “A shot that we normally take during the year she makes you kick out.”
Quianna Chaney added 10 points and Ashley Thomas grabbed 12 rebounds for the Lady Tigers.
LSU coach Van Chancellor said his team “did a great job today of winning the game without Sylvia Fowles being dominant offensively, and that’s always good.”
Fowles “was dominant defensively,” Chancellor continued. “They couldn’t get in the paint with anything and they missed shots and she had five blocks and probably about 10 more that she altered.”
After shooting below 20 percent into the second half, Oklahoma State scored on four consecutive possessions, capped by Riley’s 3-pointer, but got no closer than 41-32 during that stretch.
LSU matched the Cowgirls’ shooting, with LeBlanc and White both hitting 3s and LeBlanc adding a driving layup. The Lady Tigers then began to pull away for good beginning when White, with nowhere to pass and the shot clock running down, started toward the perimeter, then turned 180 degrees and hit a driving floater in the lane.
Fowles then hit a baseline jumper after an inbound pass with a second left on the shot clock, and one possession later, White hit her second 3 of the half.
“Usually when I’m really upset, for whatever reason, I play fairly well,” White said. “I try to be a pretty peaceful person off the court as well as on the court, and I really don’t like playing from a place of anger, but when I get there I usually play pretty well.”
The 10-1 run continued when Thomas made one of two free throws, then OSU turned the ball over trying to rebound the missed foul shot, giving Chaney and easy layup to make it 59-40.
“We did need another scorer to pop up and get some,” Budke said. “We knew the whole time if this happened to us obviously Andrea wouldn’t be enough to get it done by herself.”
LSU began to pull away from a close game late in the first half.
After Riley’s layup cut LSU’s lead to 18-16 the Lady Tigers scored the last 11 points before the break. Thomas started the run with a jumper, then Fowles converted a three-point play on an inside basket as she was fouled. Chaney followed with her second 3-pointer of the half, then Fowles added two more baskets inside to make it 29-16 at halftime.