March 13, 2002

2002 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament

GAME: No. 11 Santa Clara (21-9) vs. No. 6 LSU (17-11).

REGIONAL: West, First Round.

TIME: Friday, 11:36 p.m. EST.

SITE: The Coors Events Center, Boulder, Colo.

There was a time this season when 22nd-ranked LSU didn't look like it was going to make the postseason for a seventh straight year. But the Lady Tigers, who will face Santa Clara in the first round of the NCAA tournament, went on to win six of their final 10 games to earn a berth.

"If you'd ask me in January, we're thinking about, 'Can we win a conference game?"' LSU coach Sue Gunter said. "I'm serious. That's what it looked like right then. But you can never explain how big the hearts of these girls are. It's remarkable."

LSU overcame a string of injuries, and closed out the season with an appearance in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

Although the Lady Tigers lost to Vanderbilt 63-48 in the title game, their strong finish put them into the field of 64.

"I'm delighted for these kids and after what they have been through this year, to be a six seed, I couldn't be happier," Gunter said. "We had hoped that there was a chance we could get a four or a five seed, but we knew that was an outside possibility. With the sixth seed, at least that keeps us away from a number one seed for a little while. The West Region is a good place to go."

LSU's first-round opponent, Santa Clara, earned an at-large bid after finishing second in the West Coast Conference tournament. The Broncos lost to Pepperdine 81-77 in the championship game.

The Broncos have a balanced scoring attack, featuring four of their five starters averaging in double figures. Tammy Annas leads the way with 11.3 points per game.

Santa Clara coach Chris Denker will have more on his mind than coaching his first NCAA tournament game as his wife will deliver their first child on Thursday by Caesarian section.

This will be the first meeting between the Lady Tigers and Santa Clara with the winner facing the victor of the game between No. 3 Colorado and No. 14 Southern on Sunday.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Santa Clara - F Kendra Rhea (8.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg), F Annas (11.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg), C Julie Butler (11.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg), G Becki Ashbaugh (11.1 ppg, 7.1 apg), G Caroline Gruening (11.0 ppg, 3.4 apg). LSU - F Ke-Ke Tardy (9.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg), F Roneeka Hodges (9.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg), C Aiysha Smith (16.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg), G Doneeka Hodges (15.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg), G Temeka Johnson (9.9 ppg, 7.7 apg).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Santa Clara - At-large bid, West Coast Conference. LSU - At-large bid, Southeastern Conference.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Santa Clara - 1-4, 4 years. LSU - 12-11, 11 years.