BOULDER, Colo. -- Santa Clara wouldn't go away. Not after trailing by five in the first half and not when seemingly out of it with four minutes left.
In a game that came down to a questionable call, sixth-seeded Louisiana State held off the No. 11 Broncos, 84-78, on Friday night in the first round of the women's NCAA tournament.
The loss was the final game of Santa Clara guard Caroline Gruening's college career. Gruening, a 1998 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate, scored 14 points and had three assists for the Broncos.
The game was up for grabs until SCU center Kendra Rhea was called for traveling with 19.6 seconds left. With the Broncos down two, Rhea tried to maneuver through two defenders and draw a foul. Instead the call went against Santa Clara, which couldn't recover.
The Broncos fouled Temeka Johnson intentionally with 17.4 seconds left, but the point guard made both free throws to give the Tigers an 82-78 advantage. She hit a basket in the final and finished with 16 points.
The intensity increased late in the second half when Johnson stole a pass and scored to give LSU a 73-71 lead. Aiysha Smith then followed a missed shot to score for a 75-71 lead with 4:22 left. Smith's free throw the next time down the floor helped the Tigers outscore Santa Clara 8-0 in 2 minutes 10 seconds.
But Gruening made a swift move to draw a foul and score a 15-foot jumper. She made the free throw to close to 76-74 with 3:43 left. The Lady Tigers (18-11) might be the NCAA tournament's most remarkable team, men or women. LSU lost three starters to injuries, including its two best players this season. The Tigers had four more cheerleaders than players, counting guard Patty Hanten, who plays sparingly.
Three serious knee ligament tears and one foot injury ended four Tigers' seasons.
One LSU counts on, Roneeka Hodges, a 5-11 sophomore, has a mysterious leg injury that limits her play. Despite seeing a dozen physicians her ailment has been so far undiagnosed. She had 14 Friday night. The strange trip could be embodied in sophomore Johnson, academically ineligible until December. The day she became eligible, Johnson started at point guard before she even practiced with the team.
Johnson, 5-foot-3, didn't make the all-Southeastern Conference team, but was named honorable mention All-American this week, playing an instrumental role in the team's upset of then No. 3 Tennessee in the conference tournament.
"The one thing that I loved most that I never had a problem with, it was taken away from me, due to academics," she told the New Orleans Time-Picayune this season. "In the long run, it was good for me because I became a better person."
And perhaps a better player. With Johnson threading through the Santa Clara zone LSU took charge late in the first half and led 35-30 at halftime.
But the Broncos (21-10) looked electric to start the second half, forcing the Tigers to call a timeout with 16:05 left, trailing 48-45. From there the lead changed hands like money.
They just didn't have enough firepower to stop the Lady Tigers, who had four players in double figures led by Doneeka Hodges with 22.
Julie Butler scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds to lead Santa Clara. Gruening had 14 and point guard Becki Ashbaugh had an excellent second half to finish with 12.
But it was Johnson who controlled the game for LSU just like she did in the Southeastern Conference tournament in an upset victory over then No. 3 Tennessee.
Her grandmother, Jewel Johnson, was in the hospital the night of the game because a severe case of the flu.
"I got up about 6 o'clock in the morning and went out side and got my paper," she said. "When I got to the sports page I was excited. I woke everybody in the house up. When I went to work, they asked, 'How can this little girl do the things she does?' I told them, 'I don't know, only God does.'"
Mideast At Storrs, Conn.
Connecticut 86, St. Francis, Pa. 37
Connecticut opened the NCAA tournament in dominating fashion, extending its winning streak to 34 games and closing within five victories of its third title.
Asjha Jones scored 16 points for Connecticut (34-0) in the first 10 minutes of the first-round game in the women's Mideast Regional on Saturday.
UConn, playing at home in Storrs, shot 59 percent in the first half and Jones, who finished with 18 points, scored eight of Connecticut's first 10 points.
Swin Cash added 17 points and 11 rebounds for UConn. Tonjee Ward led St. Francis with 15 points and Carlin Chesick added 11.
St. Francis, the Northeast Conference champion, is 0-6 in NCAA tournament games. UConn is in its 14th straight NCAA tournament.
Iowa 69, Virginia 62
Lindsey Meder scored 23 points and Jerica Watson added 18 points and 16 rebounds to lead Iowa (18-12).
Telisha Quarles scored 17 points for Virginia (17-11). Anna Crosswhite added 12 points.
At West Lafayette, Ind.
Old Dominion 68, Georgia 54
Lucienne Berthieu had 24 points and nine rebounds to lead Old Dominion (26-5), which rallied from a nine-point deficit in the first half.
Monique Coker added 13 points for the Lady Monarchs (26-5). Christi Thomas scored 14 points to lead Bulldogs (19-11).
Purdue 80, Austin Peay 49
Kelly Komara had 17 points, six rebounds and six steals as Purdue charged to an insurmountable 31-7 lead in the first half.
Shereka Wright added 13 points and Erika Valek had 12 for Purdue (24-7). Gerlonda Hardin led Austin Peay (19-12) with 19 points and six rebounds.
At Columbia, S.C.
South Carolina 69, Liberty 61
Teresa Geter made four late free throws and third-seeded South Carolina held off a late rally and dealt Liberty its sixth straight NCAA tournament loss.
Petra Ujhelyi had 19 points and 11 rebounds for South Carolina. Jocelyn Penn added 13 points and 14 rebounds. Stephanie Walker led Liberty with 19 points.
Cincinnati 76, St. Peter's 63, OT
Valerie King scored 13 points in overtime and finished with 24 points as sixth-seeded Cincinnati won its 14th straight game.
K.B. Sharp had 19 points, and Debbie Merrill added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Bearcats (27-4).
At Norman, Okla.
Oklahoma 84, Hartford 52
Caton Hill scored 14 points and was one of four players in double figures as Oklahoma coaxed Hartford into 22 turnovers in its first NCAA tournament appearance.
Stacey Dales and LaNeishea Caufield scored 13 points, and Dionnah Jackson had 10 for Oklahoma (28-3), which advanced to play Villanova in Monday's second round.
Villanova 67, Pepperdine 46
Mimi Riley scored 18 points and Villanova overcame 39 percent shooting to advance to the second round.
Katie Davis scored 16 points and Stephanie Baker 10 for Villanova (20-10), which outrebounding the Waves 41-30.
Damaris Hinojosa scored 16 points and Nadja Morgan had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Waves (23-8), who had a season-low point total.
At Stanford, Calif.
Stanford 76, Weber St. 51
Nicole Powell had 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as Stanford overwhelmed Weber State.
Cori Enghusen added 15 points for the second-seeded Cardinal (31-2).
Stanford will play 10th-seeded Tulane in the second round.
It was the fifth career triple-double for Powell, the Pacific-10 Conference player of the year.
Tulane 73, Colorado State 69
Gwen Slaughter had 15 points and 14 rebounds as Tulane held off Colorado State.
Britt Themann scored 14 points for Tulane (24-10), and Teana McKiver and Sarah Goree each added 11.
Midwest At Nashville, Tenn.
Vanderbilt 63, Oakland 38
Chantelle Anderson scored 28 points and top-seeded Vanderbilt won its sixth straight game.
The Commodores (28-6), winners of nine of their last 10, will play ninth-seeded Arizona State on Monday night in the second round.
Arizona St. 73, Wisconsin 70
Cion Carvalho hit four free throws in the final 27.1 seconds and finished with 24 points as Arizona State rallied for its first NCAA tournament victory since 1983.
Melody Johnson scored 18 points and Amanda Levens 14 for ninth-seeded Arizona State (25-8), which tied a school record for victories in a season, matching the 1983 team.
At Chapel Hill, N.C.
Minnesota 71, UNLV 54P>
Lindsay Whalen scored 18 of her 29 points in the second half to lead Minnesota.
Lindsay Lieser scored 12 points, and Corrin Van Wald added 10 for Minnesota (22-7). Sherry McCracklin led UNLV with 11 points.
North Carolina 85, Harvard 58
Coretta Brown scored 21 of her career-high 28 points in the first half as North Carolina snapped Harvard's winning streak at 13 games.
Jennifer Thomas added 18 points for fourth-seeded UNC (25-8). Raka Cserny led Harvard (22-6) with 16 points.
At Ames, Iowa
Iowa St. 72, Temple 57
Mary Cofield went 6-for-6 on 3-pointers in scoring 20 points, and Angie Welle had 18 points and 15 rebounds for Iowa State.
Tracy Gahan added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the third-seeded Cyclones (24-8), who improved to 8-1 in NCAA tournament games at home and will play 11th-seeded Brigham Young on Monday night.
BYU 90, Florida 52
Erin Thorn made seven 3-pointers and scored 28 points, and Jennifer Leitner added 17 points and 17 rebounds as Brigham Young (23-8) won for the first time in five NCAA tournament games.
Brandi McCain scored 28 points for sixth-seeded Florida (18-11), which missed 25 of its first 29 shots and suffered its worst loss in nine NCAA tournament games.
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