for this game

Hartford-LSU Preview

Mar 20, 2010 - 12:18 AM By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO STATS Writer

Hartford (27-4) at LSU (20-9), 12:06 p.m. EDT

Van Chancellor knows what it takes to build title-winning teams, and Jennifer Rizzotti knows what it's like to play for him.

Chancellor now will try to get the better of his former player when seventh-seeded LSU faces Rizzotti and No. 10 seed Hartford on Sunday at Durham, N.C. in the Memphis regional.

Chancellor spent 10 years as the coach of the WNBA's Houston Comets, where he drafted Rizzotti in 1999 following the demise of the American Basketball League. Rizzotti, a star in the ABL, won championships in her first two seasons with the Comets, who won the league's first four titles starting in 1997.

"I knew then and there she was going to be a great coach," Chancellor said. "She understood the game. I remember running through the Los Angeles Sparks' plays, and I thought Jennifer knew them better than they did."

Rizzotti is looking forward to a matchup against her former coach in a rare first-round game featuring two ranked teams, and the Hawks' first against LSU since December 1992.

"I couldn't think of a better first-round opponent," said Rizzotti, who is in her 11th season with the Hawks after starring at Connecticut, where she won a national title in 1995.

LSU (20-9), ranked 21st, started this season by winning 13 of 14. The team dropped six of eight before capping the regular season with a 5-1 surge.

After earning a bye in the SEC tourney, LSU fell 63-61 to Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals on March 5. Last year, the Tigers were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA tournament by Louisville.

"We know now that the record's 0-0 for everyone," said forward LaSondra Barrett, second on LSU with 12.6 points per game and a team-best 6.7 rebounds. "It's all about who plays the hardest and the toughest, and it's not about talent or any kind of seeds.

"So we know that now, and we pretty much put the past behind us at the beginning of the season and just learn from all the games we didn't close out or the games we really regret and want back. And we're just using that to focus our energy on Hartford."

Guard Allison Hightower is LSU's top player as she's second in the conference with a team-high 18.5 points.

Rizzotti has turned the 25th-ranked Hawks (27-4) into a force in America East. Hartford went 16-0 in league play this season, and despite being beaten by 55-50 by Vermont in the championship, claimed the first at-large NCAA berth in school history.

The Hawks are third in the nation defensively, holding opponents to 50.1 points per game.

Diana Delva leads Hartford with averages of 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds. The forward-center had 18 points and six boards against the Catamounts.

The winner of this game will face either No. 2 seed Duke or 15th-seeded Hampton in the second round Tuesday.