It was a showdown between two of the top ten teams in Women’s College Basketball between the No.3 LSU Tigers and No.9 Miami Hurricanes with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Both teams are coming off impressive wins in the Sweet Sixteen, with the Hurricanes torpedoing their way past No.4 Villanova 70-65 behind Miami’s 5-foot-10 guard Jasymyne Robert's 26 points, and forward Destiny Harden’s 15. The Tigers on the other hand were coming off a hard-fought game in a 66-63 win over No.2 Utah led by fifth-year senior forward LaDazhia Williams 24 points who also had help from Angel Reese and Alexis Morris who combined for 32 points in the victory.
Roberts was wreaking havoc against the Tigers in the first half scoring the Hurricanes’ first 12 of 18 points to try to push the Hurricanes to their first Final Four appearance and tie the game at 18 a piece. The Tigers would go on a little 6-0 run to push their lead to six to make it 24-18.
The Tigers would enter the half with a 26-20 lead. Roberts would finish with the Hurricanes 16 of 20 points on an absurd 8-of-10 from the field. Both teams struggled from the field, as the Hurricanes shot 36% in the first half to the Tigers' 30%. The Hurricanes committed nine turnovers in the first half to the Tigers’ six.
Both teams scored quick baskets to start the second half to make the score 28-22. An injury to Hurricane senior forward Lola Pendande, one of their best defenders, who did a miraculous job on Reese in the first half holding her scoreless on 0-of-9 shooting from the field went out for what seemed like an injury scare but was able to return back to the game after seeming like she was unable to move.
The Tigers started to go on a 9-1 run to push their lead to 11, 34-23 over the Hurricanes. Tigers freshman forward Sa’Myah Smith made some emphatic blocks and was a key component defensively for the Tigers all night long, making it miserable for the Hurricanes to get any easy shots near the rim.
After a sizzling first half, Roberts was held quiet for much of the third quarter, not scoring her first field goal until under the three-minute mark of the third. The Tigers' defense was like a blanket over the Hurricanes, holding them to just a mere five points scored in the third to have their largest lead of the game 38-27.
The Hurricanes went on a drought the whole fourth quarter until a Lazaria Spearman putback with under seven minutes to go. Miami then went on a 6-0 run with the momentum pendulum seeming to swing their way to make it 43-35 with the Tigers still possessing the lead.
The Hurricanes played a press zone to force another turnover on the TIgers’ caused by Hurricane guard Lasah Dwyer near the four-minute mark which resulted in a stoppage of play as Dwyer was down on the court after suffering an injury to her right leg after diving for a loose ball.
The emotions seemed to escalate among the crowd and the Hurricanes after the Dwyer injury but the Hurricanes couldn’t convert off a Tiger turnover and turned it right back to the Tigers which resulted in another basket for LSU to push their lead to ten with 2:52 to go. The Hurricanes lost Harden to a bloody mouth which caused Miami to have to go really small by playing a four-guard lineup against LSU.
The Hurricanes tried to press the Tigers late as time was slowly becoming the enemy for the Hurricanes. The Tigers still found a way to break down the press and were able to convert an easy layup on the other end to take a 49-36 lead with under two minutes to go.
Alexis Morris put the finishing touches on the Hurricanes off a beautiful drive to the basket switching to her left hand for a beautiful finish for her two of 21 points.
The Tigers ended up securing the victory 54-42 to make their sixth Final Four appearance in program history and their first since 2008. After struggling to convert a field goal in the first half, Angel Reese finished with a monster double-double of 13 points and 18 rebounds to go along with four assists, three steals, and two blocks in an all-around masterful performance.
The reason the Tigers won this game was on the glass, they were like bunny rabbits for carrots for every board, outrebounding the Hurricanes 49-36 and being disruptive on the defensive end all night long by causing the Hurricanes to commit 18 turnovers.
After a dynamic first half by Roberts, the Hurricanes guard struggled in the second half by being held to six points in the second half with no other Hurricane scoring in double-digits.
The Tigers will now play No.1 Virginia Tech in the Final Four at 7 P.M. eastern time Saturday on ESPN.