Atlanta No need for LSU and Big Baby to cry in this NCAA Tournament. The Tigers left the tears for J.J. Redick.
Glen "Big Baby" Davis and a pair of defensive-minded freshmen have LSU just one victory away from the Final Four, stifling Redick and sending top-seeded Duke to yet another loss in the round of 16.
Davis scored 14 points despite foul trouble, freshman Tyrus Thomas swatted five shots, and another freshman, Garrett Temple, shut down Redick to lead No. 4 seed LSU to a 62-54 upset Thursday night in the Atlanta Regional.
"It feels good, but it's over," Davis said. "There's another task at hand."
That comes Saturday, when the Tigers (26-8) will meet Texas in their first regional final since 1987. The winner of that one can book a flight to Indianapolis.
Duke (32-4) is heading home, having flickered out at a familiar point in the tournament. The Blue Devils lost in the regional semifinals for the third time in four years.
"This definitely hurts," said a red-eyed Redick, who had one of his worst games in the finale of his brilliant college career. "The last four years have been pretty amazing, and I didn't want that to end."
Redick hardly looked like a favorite for player of the year, making only three of 18 shots and finishing with 11 points - more than 16 points below his season average and equaling his lowest-scoring game of the season.
Duke's other star senior, Shelden Williams, went out with 23 points and 13 rebounds, but his team wasn't nearly as balanced as LSU, which won the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship and has its sights on an even bigger title.
If the Tigers can play this kind of defense three more times, they might just do it for a state still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Duke made only 18 of 65 shots (28 percent) and finished with its fewest points in a game since 1996.
"That may have been the best defensive effort I've seen in one of my teams," LSU coach John Brady said.
Redick got his last basket, a three-pointer off a screen with 3:32 remaining, to give Duke its final lead at 52-51. But that was about the only bright spot in a grim night for the usually sharp-shooting senior.
"We could have had a better offensive game, there's no question about it," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "But LSU had a lot to do with that."
Redick has done it all before, scoring only five points in a loss to Kansas in the 2003 regional semifinals. Duke failed to get over that same hurdle last season, losing to Michigan State with Redick managing only 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting.
The third time, it was Temple who stifled Redick.
"I was just trying to get a hand in his face and contest all his shots, or make him pass the ball back out," the freshman said. "I'm a defensive player. This is what I live for."
Temple could tell that Redick was getting frustrated as one shot after another failed to find the net.
"When he missed it, he was pretty upset," Temple said. "He was complaining to the referees about not calling fouls."
After Redick's final hoop, LSU outscored the Blue Devils 11-2 the rest of the way, going ahead for good on Davis' free throw with 2:32 remaining. Thomas came up huge in the final minute, making two free throws with 43 seconds left, dribbling through two defenders for a dunk nine seconds later, then rejecting a shot by Greg Paulus that essentially finished off the Blue Devils.
Thomas also led the Tigers with 13 rebounds.
"Duke's a team that everyone either wants to play for or against," he said.
Darrel Mitchell, who also had 14 points, made two free throws with 25 seconds left and Davis scored his final four at the line, even rebounding his own missed free throw to get back for two more attempts. The big guy looked longingly at the ball and patted it like, well, a baby.
The Tigers won despite making only 12-of-23 free throws and playing much of the second half with Davis and Thomas trying to stay in the game with four fouls apiece.
LSU hasn't been to the Final Four since 1986 and has never won it all. Not even Shaquille O'Neal, who played three seasons in Baton Rouge, could get the Tigers past the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Duke trailed much of the game but seemed to gain control with a 10-0 run midway through the second half.
The Blue Devils pulled ahead for the first time since an early 10-8 lead when freshman Josh McRoberts dunked two times in a row off lob passes to make it 42-40. They pushed the lead to 45-40 and had a chance to bury LSU when Redick wound up with an open three after a missed free throw.
The ball clanked off the rim, and Mitchell connected on a three at the other end to pull LSU to 45-43 with 8 1/2 minutes to go.
Duke made only 18-of-65 shots (28 percent) and struggled to get free of LSU's lanky, quick defenders - epitomized by 6-foot-9 Thomas, who plays even bigger, and Temple, a 6-5 guard who draped himself on Redick.
Davis, whose 6-9, 320-pound frame is more in line with Charles Barkley, doesn't fit the mold of his teammates but is the unquestioned leader in just his sophomore year. The SEC player of the year even knew what to do at the end, instructing a teammate to pass the ball to Mitchell so the young team's only senior starter would have it at the buzzer.
Mitchell hurled the ball off the scoreboard hanging above the court.
"We didn't get the respect we deserve," he said. "We could use that as motivation."
The Blue Devils seemed to catch a break when Davis picked up two quick fouls, heading to the bench with 9:01 left in the first half. He watched the rest of the period from a chair, but his teammates didn't wilt their own without their star.
LSU was up 15-12 when Davis took a seat and actually improved on that margin before the break, leading 31-27 in Duke's lowest-scoring first half of the season. Williams, with 14 points, accounted for more than half of his team's offense but got little help from Redick or anyone else.
Brady clapped his hands when the horn sounded at halftime. Davis glanced up at the scoreboard and had a smile on his face as he stepped off the court, despite having scored just four points.
Big Baby had an even bigger smile when it was over.