Tigers and Longhorns lock up in Atlanta Regional final
(Sports Network) – The second-seeded Texas Longhorns and fourth-seeded LSU
Tigers will battle this afternoon in the final of the Atlanta Regional,
and the winner will earn its ticket to the Final Four.
LSU put forth a tremendous defensive effort in Thursday’s 62-54 Sweet 16
victory over top-seeded Duke. The Tigers are making their first Elite Eight
appearance since 1987, which was also the last year LSU beat a higher seed in
this tournament. The program was last a Final Four participant in 1986,
but considering the Tigers won the outright SEC regular season title, this
current run should not be viewed as a surprise.
As for Texas, it is coming off a 74-71 victory over West Virginia on Thursday
that featured perhaps the most exciting ending of any NCAA Tournament game
this year. Texas is making its second Elite Eight appearance in four
years, and it managed to advance to the Final Four that season. The Longhorns
shared the Big 12 regular season title and reached the conference’s tournament
championship game. They are now 28-26 all-time in NCAA Tournament action.
LSU owns an 18-10 advantage in the all-time series with Texas, including a
72-67 victory over the Longhorns in the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
Balanced scoring was a key to LSU’s victory over Duke in the Sweet 16, as four
players reached double figures. Glen Davis and Darrel Mitchell tallied 14
points apiece, while Tasmin Mitchell and Darnell Lazare pitched in 10 points
each. Tasmin Mitchell pulled down 10 rebounds, while freshman phenom Tyrus
Thomas finished with nine points, 13 boards and five blocked shots. LSU
blocked nine shots altogether and limited Duke to 27.7 percent shooting from
the floor, including 5-of-26 from three-point range. Perhaps most impressive
was that the Tigers held National Player of the Year candidate J.J. Redick to
11 points on 3-of-18 shooting from the floor. Garrett Temple did a tremendous
job defensively on Duke’s senior standout.
Davis entered the Sweet 16 averaging 18.6 ppg and 10.0 rpg, while
Darrel Mitchell was posting 17.3 ppg prior to the Duke contest. Although
both fell short of those marks, the only important number to head coach John
Brady’s group was the final score.
Of the five Texas starters, senior Kenton Paulino probably gets the least
national attention despite the fact that he has hit over 40 percent of his
career three-pointers. Paulino stepped into the spotlight on Thursday when he
beat the buzzer with a three-pointer to break a tie and send his Longhorns to
the Elite Eight. He had only scored five points before that shot, but his
picture has been all over websites and publications the last two days because
of his late-game heroics. LaMarcus Aldridge came through with 26 points and 13
rebounds against West Virginia, and he shot 11-of-15 from the floor. As for
P.J. Tucker, he tallied 15 points and 14 boards. The fact that the game was so
close is surprising considering that Texas earned a staggering 45-16
rebounding advantage. In fact, the Longhorns finished with more offensive
boards than the Mountaineers had total rebounds.
Tucker, the Big 12 Player of the Year, leads Texas with 16.2 ppg and 9.4
rpg. Aldridge adds 15.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg and 68 blocks, while Daniel Gibson is
contributing 13.4 ppg.