Back in Final 4

LSU, UCLA

Tigers storm past 'Horns, bring joy to battered state

Lsu 70 Texas 60

Ncaa Tournament

Atlanta Regional

March 26, 2006|By ALAN SCHMADTKE

ATLANTA -- Glen "Big Baby" Davis pounded his chest, screamed to the heavens and saluted LSU's fans.

In turn, they'll be talking about Davis and Tyrus Thomas for years.

They carried LSU back to the Final Four.

LSU's extra-large and extra-thin inside duo combined for 47 points, 22 rebounds and four blocked shots yesterday, and Davis' unlikely three-pointer in overtime sealed a 70-60 triumph over Texas in the Atlanta Regional final.

The Tigers, a No. 4 seed, advanced to the Final Four for the first time in 20 years. With three first-year contributors and four freshmen that play regularly, they're the youngest team to reach the Final Four since Michigan's Fab Five in 1992.

It's a small piece of athletic joy for a state still coping with all facets of Hurricane Katrina's recovery effort.

"I know a lot of things are going on right now, and people are just trying to recuperate from what happened. This is something to push them in the right direction of coming back home to New Orleans," said Davis, a native of Baton Rouge, La., a city whose population has nearly doubled because of hurricane evacuees.

"We believed. We always believed in ourselves and our team."

As the Tigers walked into a regional with a No. 1 seed (Duke) and No. 2 seed (Texas) in the way, assistant coach John Treloar showed the team a tape of heavyweight Buster Douglas' 1990 out-of-nowhere knockout of then-champion Mike Tyson.

In two games at the Georgia Dome, LSU held Duke to its lowest point total of the year and Texas to its second-lowest.

"Texas gave us some hard punches and we had to be Buster Douglas and swing back," Thomas said. "And we swung back at them. We knocked out Mike Tyson."

The Tigers (27-8) will face UCLA (31-6) in a national semifinal Saturday at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

It's a matchup that nearly wasn't. Thomas and Davis scored LSU's first 21 points of the second half, and they controlled the game to the point the Tigers held a five-point lead near the end of regulation.

Texas (30-7) gained a tie at 52 with 33 seconds left on Daniel Gibson's three-point shot after a wild sequence, and then LSU misfired on three shots to win on the final possession.

The Tigers used the time between regulation and overtime to convince themselves they'd win.

"It didn't matter what had happened to that point, all we needed was five minutes and we were going to have an opportunity to keep playing for the national championship," LSU coach John Brady said. "I didn't draw a play, I didn't diagram one thing. I just wanted to make sure they came out with a belief in themselves that that game was theirs to win."

LSU scored the first seven points of overtime, an extra period that proved anticlimactic in an entertaining, physically demanding game that saw 18 ties or lead changes.

Davis' sixth three-pointer -- and only his 22nd attempt of the season -- gave LSU a 59-52 lead two minutes into overtime, plenty of cushion against a Texas team it held to a season-low 30.4-percent shooting.

"It's called thinking without thinking," Davis said of his only three-pointer of the NCAA tournament. "The opportunity was there to make the shot. Most of the time when I'm shooting threes, I'm thinking about it too much. I was just in rhythm. I felt it was a great shot and I made it."

Thomas, a 6-foot-9 freshman, threw down a trio of alley-oop passes in the first half, setting a quick tone. He finished with 21 points on 10-for-14 shooting.

Davis, a 6-foot-9, 310-pound hulk, backed in first LaMarcus Aldridge, then forward Brad Buckman. His line: 11-for-19, 26 points, 13 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Aldridge, a star in Thursday's semifinal victory over West Virginia, was held to four points on 2-for-14 shooting.

"When Glen hit the three, that was the turning point," said Darrel Mitchell, the only senior in the youthful LSU lineup.

Indeed, Davis' nickname is most appropriate for this group, which includes three freshman starters. Most of them have known each other since they were kids. Now they're heading to the Final Four together.

"We're like brothers," Mitchell said.

Alan Schmadtke writes for the Orlando Sentinel. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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