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LSU beats Hartford 60-39 in NCAA 1st round

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Only minutes into the game, LSU was on its way to another NCAA women's tournament opening-round victory.

LaSondra Barrett scored 20 points and LSU used a quick 17-0 run to beat Hartford 60-39 on Saturday in the first round of the Memphis Regional.

Courtney Jones and Allison Hightower each added 10 for the seventh-seeded Tigers (21-9), who were never challenged after their early spurt and led by as many as 29 points. It marked the 12th straight year that the Tigers have won at least one tournament game.

LSU came into the game as one of the nation's stingiest scoring defenses and held Hartford (27-5) to 30 percent shooting while forcing 17 turnovers.

"Every time Hartford made a run at us, I thought our kids did a great job of responding to the run and answering the call," LSU coach Van Chancellor said. "Our defense was pretty good today. That's the best it's been in a while."

LSU advanced to play second-seeded Duke on Monday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Blue Devils' rowdy home court.

Diana Delva scored 12 points for the 10th-seeded Hawks, who ended the season with consecutive losses after winning 20 straight. Hartford was coming off a loss to Vermont in the America East Conference tournament final, yet earned its first at-large tournament berth.

Already without injured senior forward Erica Beverly, things got so bad for Hartford that coach Jennifer Rizzotti was ejected after picking up her second technical foul with 7:27 left and her team down 52-29.

"There's not a coach in this NCAA tournament who's not going to argue a call," Rizzotti said. "But again, when we talked about things in the locker room, not one of my kids or my staff complained about the refs. We complained about the things that we can control and the fact that we didn't."

LSU came in allowing 52 points per game and held the Hawks scoreless for nearly 8 minutes in the run that ended with Katherine Graham's layup for a 17-4 lead.

Hartford, meanwhile, avoided its lowest-scoring first half (14 points) of the season only when Nikkia Smith hit a jumper to beat the shot clock with about 15 seconds left and cut the deficit to 29-15 at the break. That ended a half in which the Hawks had three shot-clock violations and had to force up several other shots to beat the clock, prompting an exasperated Rizzotti to at one point scream "Shoot it!" to her players from the bench.

The Hawks got within 13 on a four-point play from Ilicia Mathis early in the second half, but the Tigers responded with 13 straight points — starting with consecutive three-point plays from Barrett and Jones — to push the lead back up to 47-21 and seal the win.

"It's just a mindset the entire team needs to have," Barrett said. "Everybody needs to be focused and concentrate on the game plan and just not diverge from it. If the entire team plays with that mindset, we can be very dangerous."

A few minutes later, Rizzotti — frustrated with the officiating the entire afternoon — picked up her second technical and gave a thumbs-up to the officials as she walked off the court.