BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Adrienne Webb scored a career-high 29 points, including two crucial free throws with 22 seconds left, and LSU beat third-seeded Penn State 71-66 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Tuesday night.
Bianca Lutley overcame foul trouble and capped an 18-point night with a tough floater in traffic in the final minute to give LSU the lead and added another key free throw to make it a four-point game with 8.3 seconds to go.
Webb, a senior, was 10 of 16 in what would have been her last game had No. 6 seed LSU (22-11) lost. Instead, she carried LSU to the Spokane Regional semifinal on a night when the Lady Tigers had only seven available players.
Nikki Greene scored 16 points and Alex Bentley 14 for Penn State (26-6), whose loss meant all four No. 3 seeds were out of the tournament.
Bentley’s night started strong but ended with a miss in the final minutes that could have given the Lady Lions the lead.
LSU next meets second-seeded California on Saturday.
The Lady Tigers opened the tournament with only eight healthy players, but reserve junior guard Jeanne Kenney’s concussion in LSU’s first-round victory sidelined her against the Lady Lions. Kenney, an emotional leader for the Lady Tigers, was not even in the stadium, but no official word as to why was immediately provided by LSU.
The Lady Tigers could not afford to have key players in foul trouble, but that’s what happened. Lutley, a 5-11 starting forward, was called for her fourth foul with 11:51 left. Then 6-foot-4 reserve center Derreyal Youngblood was called for her fourth with 6:01 to go.
That limited both players aggressiveness in defending and rebounding, and Penn State appeared ready to pull away when Green scored three times inside, Taylor hit a layup with Lutley backing away during an 8-0 run that gave the Lady Lions a 60-55 lead.
But Lutley responded with a 3, and LSU regained the lead, at 63-62, on Webb’s 3 with 3:04 to go.
Ariel Edwards, who had 13 points for Penn State, drive past both Lutley and Youngblood for a layup, then hit a pull-up jumper with 54 seconds left that put Penn State in the lead for the final time at 66-65. But Lutley, then dribbled into traffic in the lane and rolled in a shot for the lead with 40 seconds to go.
The contributions by Webb and Lutley were particularly important on a night when LSU’s leading scorer, All-Southeastern Conference forward Theresa Plaisance, shot 3 of 14 and finished with eight points.
Now LSU is in the regional semifinals for the first time since 2008, while Penn State failed to get as far as it did last season despite appearing to have a deeper and more experienced team. Penn State’s Maggie Lucas, the Big Ten player of the year, shot 2 of 10 and finished with nine points.
LSU shot nearly 60 percent throughout the first 10 minutes of the game and led by as many as eight when Ballard’s steal and fast-break layup capped a 12-4 run that made it 24-16.
Lutley, who scored 10 of her points in the first half, had five points during the spurt, including a steal and fast-break layup complete with a spin move to set up the shot.
Senior-laden Penn State hardly seemed rattled as Bentley, who scored 14 in the opening 20 minutes, responded with a right corner 3 and Lucas added a pair of free throws to make it a three-point game.
LSU maintained a slim lead until less than five minutes remained in the half. Then Penn State closed the half with a 15-4 run that included Bentley’s steal and fast-break layup and Maggie Lucas’ wide open transition 3 for her first field goal of the game.
The spurt gave the Lady Lions a lead that grew to 42-33 on Lucas’ free throws before Webb’s foul shots cut it to 42-35 at halftime.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.