BOSTON -- The Duke women's basketball team is going to party like it's 1999.
The Blue Devils reached their first national championship game in seven years by using their height advantage in the paint and a tough defense to defeat LSU, 64-45, before 18,642 at TD Banknorth Garden last night.
Duke (31-3) will make the school's second appearance in a national final and meet Maryland tomorrow night at 8:30. The Terps (33-4) upended North Carolina (33-2), 81-70, in the earlier national semifinal.
Last night's matchup pitted two No. 1 seeds that captured their respective regionals. The Blue Devils, winners of the Bridgeport Regional, have advanced to the Final Four four times in the past eight seasons and three times in the past five.
The Lady Tigers (31-4) won the San Antonio Regional but never led last night and now have been bounced from the NCAA tournament in three consecutive national semifinals.
Unlike LSU's win against Duke in the Chattanooga Regional final a year ago - a game in which the Lady Tigers harassed the Blue Devils into 38 percent shooting (19-for-50), 19 turnovers and just 49 points in a 10-point loss - it was Duke that disrupted LSU's offensive rhythm last night.
The Lady Tigers converted just 18 of 62 of their field-goal attempts (29 percent) and hadn't been held to 45 points since Duke won, 56-45, on Nov. 11, 2000.
Senior forward Seimone Augustus led LSU with 14 points, but shot just 6-for-18 from the field, and sophomore center Sylvia Fowles had eight points and 13 rebounds.
"I think that's really a testament to our depth [and] our strength of the inside-outside attack," Blue Devils coach Gail Goestenkors said. "When you talk about that, you talk about offense, but I think that truly it's our defense as well."
The Lady Tigers converted just 18 of 62 field-goal attempts (29 percent).
The Lady Tigers scored a Final Four record-low 15 points and converted just 24 percent (6-for-25) of their field-goal attempts in the first half. Augustus, the two-time Wade Trophy winner and Associated Press Player of the Year, was blanketed by often as many as three Blue Devils defenders and went into halftime with no points on 0-for-2 shooting.
Entering last night, Duke had held opposing offenses to 35.1 percent shooting and 58 points and forced 21.6 turnovers a game.
The Blue Devils also used their size on the blocks to land punishing body shots to LSU. Duke's post rotation of 6-foot-7 junior center Alison Bales, 6-3 senior forward Mistie Williams and 6-5 sophomore center Chante Black combined for 28 points, 20 rebounds and six blocks, and the Blue Devils outscored LSU 42-16 in the paint.
"We knew that we were going to have mismatches, and so we tried to get the ball in the paint," Williams said.
The loss means that Augustus will finish her collegiate career without the national title she had longed for. Augustus is certain to be a top-five pick in the WNBA draft scheduled for Wednesday in Boston, but she was thinking about the team's lack of offense.
"We were just standing around, and it was easy to guard us," Augustus said. "We didn't make them guard us. But they did a great defensive job of sticking to the script and doing the things they needed to do to force us into difficult shots and turnovers."
Trailing 26-15 at halftime, LSU sunk into an even deeper hole when Williams hit back-to-back jumpers to give Duke a 30-15 advantage.
The Lady Tigers burrowed into the deficit, eventually going on a 16-7 run fueled by seven points from Augustus. Augustus, who made her first basket with 17:38 left in the second half, got LSU back within 37-31.
But the Blue Devils answered with a 13-1 burst that included four points from senior forward Monique Currie (13 points and four rebounds) and essentially put the outcome out of the Lady Tigers' reach. email@example.com