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WOMEN'S WEST REGIONAL

Getting to Atlanta Won't Be Easy Task

March 30, 2003|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

PALO ALTO — Texas Coach Jody Conradt was only half-kidding Saturday when she opened her media session with, "It's the Final Four, isn't it?"

Conradt knows the Final Four begins next week. Right now her team is among the quartet cloistered at Stanford in the NCAA West Regional, considered the most difficult regional in the women's tournament.

Any one of the teams here -- Louisiana State, Louisiana Tech, Texas or Minnesota -- can leave with that precious ticket to Atlanta.

"I can't imagine four better teams being in one spot," Conradt said. "That's why I'm thinking it must be the championship. I can't imagine anyone trying to figure out who will emerge as the winner."

Top-seeded LSU and fifth-seeded Louisiana Tech open today's doubleheader at 4 p.m., and if the Tigers and Lady Techsters were playing this one in Louisiana, they could have rented the Superdome.

Louisiana Tech (31-2) has the nation's longest winning streak at 29 games. It has tradition, appearing in all 22 NCAA tournaments. It has bloodlines; senior center Cheryl Ford, the team's leading scorer (15.7) and rebounder (12.8), is the daughter of Utah Jazz star Karl Malone.

Oh, and there's that 14-6 all-time record against the Tigers.

"I think there are a lot of people who wonder how they could have been seeded [fifth], particularly with that record," LSU Coach Sue Gunter said. "I know they felt they should have been seeded higher, and I personally felt they should have been higher."

LSU (29-3) continues to ride the momentum gained by blowing out Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game. The Tigers, with three starters in double figures, aren't the biggest team at Maples Pavilion, but they may be the fastest.

"The first thing that you hope is they have a bad shooting night," Tech Coach Kurt Budke said. "And that hasn't happened very much this year."

Sixth-seeded Minnesota (25-5) looked unsteady in a first-round loss to Iowa in the Big Ten tournament, but the Golden Gophers are flying high after defeating Stanford last week, ending the Cardinal's 26-game home winning streak.

But second-seeded Texas (27-5), the Big 12 regular-season and tournament champion, is a tall order for Minnesota. The Longhorns outrebound opponents by 7.8 per game and outscore them by a 19.6 margin. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

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