March 22, 2009

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -Allison Hightower's career-best scoring effort came at a good time for a young LSU team short on NCAA tournament experience.

Hightower scored 26 points and sixth-seeded LSU advanced to the second round of the Raleigh Regional with a 69-59 victory over 11th-seeded Wisconsin-Green Bay on Sunday night.

Hightower, a junior who set her previous career high with 23 points earlier this month, had 20 points in the first half.

Kriston Morris added 13 points and 16 rebounds for LSU (19-10), which led by as much as 20 and by double digits most of the second half.

Kati Hardy led Green Bay (29-4) with 17 points, and reserve Kayla Tetschlag added 16.

Unlike the LSU squads that appeared in the last five Final Fours, this version of the Lady Tigers didn't have a single player who'd started an NCAA tournament game. Hightower wasn't short on postseason experience, however. She was a primary reserve on LSU's previous two Final Four teams.

She was 8-of-10 from the free-throw line and made both 3s she attempted, but cramps slowed Hightower down during the later portions of the second half. She got a standing ovation when checked out of the game and LSU went on to its 12th straight NCAA tournament victory on its home court.

It was also the 12th straight first-round triumph for the Lady Tigers. LSU hasn't lost a first-round game since falling to Southern Mississippi in 1990.

LaSondra Barrett added 13 points for the Lady Tigers, who were slated to play again on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday's late game between No. 14 seed Liberty and third-seeded Louisville.

Green Bay, champions of the Horizon League, played a weaker schedule than LSU, hence the lower seeding despite a better overall record. The Phoenix's senior-laden lineup hardly seemed intimidated by meeting the Lady Tigers on their home floor.

When Hightower hit a tough turnaround jumper and a 3-pointer during a 7-0 surge that gave LSU an 11-7 lead, Green Bay came right back with inside baskets from Tetschlag and Lavesa Glover to tie it.

But shots kept falling for Hightower, who appeared early on to be on the verge of a big night. She scored the next six points of the game on three free throws and a runner from behind the 3-point line as the shot clock wound down, giving her 13 points in the first 9:45 of the game.

A few minutes later, Andrea Kelly's jumper capped a 6-0 run that gave LSU a 23-14 lead. Before the first half was over, Hightower added a steal that she converted into fast-break layup, two free throws and a jumper, staking LSU to a 35-25 halftime lead.