Lettermen- LSU, UCLA headed to Final Four

Sunday, March 26, 2006

ATLANTA -- They've known each other since they were kids, drawn together at the basketball court.

Now, LSU's homegrown Tigers are heading to the Final Four together.

Glen Davis scored 26 points, including a decisive 3-pointer in overtime, and Tyrus Thomas added 21 points and 13 rebounds Saturday, leading LSU to its first Final Four since 1986 with a 70-60 victory over Texas in the Atlanta Regional final.

When the horn sounded, Davis marched to the front of the scorer's table, faced the gold-and-purple-clad contingent and saluted. Then he let out a huge scream and pounded his massive chest, He was mobbed by Thomas, who was named the region's most outstanding player.

The portly Davis answers to the nickname "Big Baby" -- which is only appropriate for this group. LSU's lineup features three freshmen, including Thomas, and the sophomore Davis. Darrel Mitchell is the lone senior among the starters.

Three of those guys are from Baton Rouge, practically in the shadows of the LSU campus. Another grew up in nearby Denham Springs, and Mitchell is from right down the road in St. Martinsville.

"We're like brothers," Mitchell said. "Brotherhood and togetherness."

They'll get together again in Indianapolis, facing either Memphis or UCLA next Saturday in the national semifinals.

The final margin wasn't indicative of a game that was close all the way. The lead changed hands 11 times, and there were seven ties. No one had a double-digit lead until the end.

But No. 2 seed Texas (30-7), which was trying to become the first Division I school to win national titles in football and men's basketball in the same academic year, fell apart in overtime. They were down seven by the time they got off their first shot of the extra period.

In regulation, Davis hit a turnaround jumper in the lane just before the shot clock expired to give fourth-seeded LSU (27-8) a 52-49 lead with 1:04 remaining.

Texas tied it after a wild sequence. P.J. Tucker's hook was blocked by Thomas, but Tucker chased the ball down in the corner. He passed off to Kenton Paulino, the hero of Thursday's victory over West Virginia, but he missed a jumper.

Two LSU players failed to corral the loose ball near midcourt and Paulino got it back, only to have his jumper swatted away from behind by Garrett Temple. The ball went Texas' way again -- right to Daniel Gibson, who made the tying 3 with 32 seconds left.

LSU squandered three chances to win in regulation. Davis had a mental blunder, firing up a wild 3 off an inbounds pass that didn't hit anything. Thomas got the rebound, but his baseline jumper was blocked by LaMarcus Aldridge. The ball deflected off the back of the goal, giving the Tigers one more opportunity.

They swung the ball around to Temple, but his open jumper from behind the arc barely hit the rim before time ran out.

LSU bounced right back from that disappointment. The Tigers won the jump and Tasmin Mitchell scored on a lay-in. Texas turned the ball over, and Temple scored off a double-pumping banker from beneath the hoop. The Longhorns threw it away again, and Davis finished them off.

The big man -- he's 6-foot-9 and weighs around 315 pounds -- stepped outside the arc to hit his only 3 of the game, putting the Tigers up 59-52. Texas never got any closer than five the rest of the way.

"When Glen hit the 3, that was the turning point," Darrel Mitchell said.

Texas, which dominated the lane in its buzzer-beating win over the Mountaineers, faced a much more physical team in LSU. The Longhorns were outscored by an astonishing 38-10 in the lane and had a slight edge on the boards, 45-42.

Texas couldn't overcome poor games by its two leading scorers. Tucker was held to 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Aldridge was dominated in the head-to-head matchup with Davis, making only 2-of-14 shots to finish with four points.

Gibson led the way with 15 points and unheralded Brad Buckman chipped in with 13. Paulino, who beat West Virginia with a 3-pointer, went 0-for-5 from outside the arc this time, settling for 10 points.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: