Feb. 27, 2009

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - This time, LSU made the free throws at the end of a game and hung on for the win.

When LSU and Tennessee met at the Final Four in Tampa, Fla., last year, LSU made two free throws with 7.1 seconds left. But Tennessee scored at the buzzer to win en route to its eighth national championship.

On Thursday night, LSU got two free throws from Katherine Graham with 7.9 seconds left and a defensive stop to hold off No. 18 Tennessee 63-61.

LSU, trying to build its NCAA tournament resume with a late surge, improved to 16-9 and 9-4 in the Southeastern Conference with its fourth straight win.

Tennessee (19-9, 8-5) lost for the third time in its past four games.

"We're so not the team that played in Tampa," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said.

Just as in last year's Final Four, Tennessee had to drive the length of the court to try to score.

The Lady Volunteers never got a shot off. Kristen Morris, LSU's only senior, tied up Tennessee's Glory Johnson in the low post as the buzzer sounded.

"We knew we didn't have a lot of time," Summitt said of her team's last possession. "We couldn't even get a look at it. They had pressure on us. We didn't have an opportunity to do much of anything."

Officials put 0.3 seconds back on the clock, forcing LSU to inbound under the Tennessee basket.

"With point-three of a second I got a little bit excited and they (his assistants) told me to calm down," LSU coach Van Chancellor said. "I said, 'I was up with 7 seconds to go in the Final Four, I'm not losing this baby now - get the ball in bounds."'

Morris successfully inbounded to LaSondra Barrett to end the game.

Barrett, a freshman who watched last year's Final Four from her living room sofa, led LSU with 18 points. Allison Hightower, LSU's leading scorer, finished with 14 points but hardly played in the final 12 minutes because of leg cramps.

Tennessee's Angie Bjorklund led all scorers with 21 points, 15 in the second half as the Lady Volunteers rallied from a 35-20 halftime deficit. Tennessee tied the game four times but never led.

Bjorklund's point total was matched by 21 Tennessee turnovers while LSU had nine.

LSU almost turned it over before Graham got a chance to make her game-winning free throws. Tennessee tipped the ball into the backcourt, but Graham got it and drove the right baseline where she was fouled by Bjorklund.

"I knew it was one-and-one, so I had to make the first one," said Graham, who had 12 points. "I was excited to give my team the opportunity to win, but at the same time I was praying."

The sophomore guard said the last time she shot free throws to win a game was in middle school.

"Yeah, I made them," she said.