NEW ORLEANS - LSU's "Drive for Five" is one victory away from reality.
After the No. 2-seeded Lady Tigers defeated No. 3 Oklahoma State 67-52 in Saturday's heated NCAA Tournament South Region semifinal at the New Orleans Arena - putting LSU 40 minutes away from Tampa and the program's fifth consecutive Women's Final Four appearance - Cowgirls coach Kurt Budke had something bigger in mind.
"No question, LSU has the kind of team that can win it all," Budke said.
First things first.
LSU (30-5) must defeat top-seeded North Carolina in Monday night's region final.
"Getting to all those Final Fours really says a lot about our seniors," first-year LSU coach Van Chancellor said. "But I'd like to know if they ever had to go through an obstacle like this to get to a Final Four. I doubt it.
"Not on paper, but in reality, North Carolina and LSU are both No. 1 seeds. And now we're playing. So both teams are certainly going to have to earn it."
Oklahoma State had to earn every bit of its offense.
The Cowgirls (27-8) shot just 27.5 percent from the field - the poorest women's regional shooting performance since 1995 - and endured a scoring drought of 10 minutes, 27 seconds. OSU sophomore guard Andrea Riley (game-high 26 points) had all of her team's field goals until Megan Byford got a runout layup with 10:40 remaining.
The shooting problems were mostly self-induced.
But LSU's 6-foot-6 senior center, Sylvia Fowles, was a mitigating factor.
"How many women's players in America look like Sylvia Fowles?" Budke said. "Her presence alone is something to deal with. The shots we would normally take during the season, with Sylvia there, we had to kick the ball out."
OSU packed in a 2-3 zone against Fowles, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Cowgirls center Maria Cordero, who was ill, got help from Alex Richardson and Byford in allowing little room for Fowles to operate.
"Sylvia didn't do anything except have a double-double with five blocked shots - and about 10 more that she altered," Chancellor said. "That's not too bad."
Fowles agreed - grudgingly.
"When a defense comes at you like that and you get pushed and shoved, you get a little frustrated," Fowles said. "I went out of my way to try and do extra just to get a shot. I finally calmed down and the game came back to me.
"Everything gets started for us on the defensive end. When things get going for us on defense, our offense just speaks for itself."
LSU shot 53.8 percent in the second half and had four players finish in double figures - Erica White (18 points), RaShonta LeBlanc (13), Fowles and Quianna Chaney (10).
"We're on course," White said. "But we don't want to just get to the Final Four. We want to win it."