Reese leads LSU past Hawaii in March Madness opening round
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A dynamic and prolific All-America power forward like Angel Reese can cover up for some flaws.
Take ice-cold perimeter shooting, for example.
LSU missed 13 of 14 3-pointers, but Reese had 34 points and 15 rebounds, and the third-seeded Tigers defeated No. 14 seed Hawaii 73-50 on Friday night in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.
“I’ve always been blessed to have good post play,” said LSU coach Kim Mulkey, who won a national title as Baylor’s coach in 2012 with Brittney Griner at center. “I’ve never had to coach a team that jacks 3s up and shoots 30-plus a game. How many of these teams ever win national championships? Men or women? They may in the pros … but it’s a different game at the pro level.”
Flau’Jae Johnson scored 10 for LSU (29-2), which raced to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and maintained a comfortable lead most of the way.
The Tigers advanced to a second-round match-up on Sunday with sixth seeded Michigan (23-9), a 71-59 winner over 11 seed UNLV earlier Friday.
Reese, an All-America forward, was a force in the paint while registering her 29th double-double this season, and also was effective defending on the perimeter. She was 13 of 20 shooting, hit 8 of 12 free throws and also had three blocks and three steals.
“Reese is going to get what she gets,” Hawaii coach Laura Beeman said. “She’s going to go No. 1, No. 2 in the WNBA (draft); we don’t have a pro on our team right now.”
Reese looked unfazed when multiple defenders on her. Help defenders were often late on her explosive cuts and drives to the hoop anyway. She was also shifty and creative enough to score when the lane got crowded, exemplified by her spinning drive that set up a scoop shot off the glass as she was fouled.
“I’ve seen double teams all year. I’ve seen post players become aggressive with me down low,” Reese said. “A lot of teams become physical with me, and I just can’t let that get to me mentally.”
LSU outscored Hawaii 44-16 in the paint and outrebounded the Rainbow Wahine 40-33.
Meanwhile, LSU’s defense forced Hawaii to play at a slower pace than planned on the offensive end.
“We couldn’t get downhill and drive and kick, and they closed so quickly that when we thought when they had shots, they were right there in our face,” Beeman said. “It wasn’t our game plan to run the clock down. It was our game plan to run down and get great shots. They make that very, very difficult.”
Kallin Spiller and Daejah Phillips each scored 13 for Hawaii (18-15) which was held 10 points below its average scoring total for the season. Lily Wahinekapu scored 11 for the Rainbow Wahine.
“Guarding Angel Reese was difficult,” said Spiller, a center. “As a post (player) focused on rebounding, I know how hard it is to collect those double doubles at the level she does.
“It’s clear they are going to make a run,” Spiller added. “I’m rooting for them — for the ones that knocked us out. I’m hoping they go far.”
Hawaii: Were held to 31% (16 of 52) shooting overall and made just seven of 32 attempts from 3-point range. … The loss was just the third in the past 13 games for Hawaii, winners of the Big West tournament.
LSU: Reese grabbed six of her rebounds on the offensive end, helping LSU score 17 second-chance points. … The Tigers won comfortably despite missing 13 of 14 3-point shots. … LSU has now gone 55-8 since three-time national champion coach Kim Mulkey left Baylor to coach the Tigers before the 2021-22 season. … Reese briefly appeared to have pain in her lower leg during the game, “I caught a cramp,” she said afterward. “That was it. It wasn’t my ankle.” … Mulkey won her 20th straight first-round NCAA game to improve to 20-1 in such contests.
This wasn’t the first time LSU had an off night from deep and still won comfortably. The Tigers went 0-for 14 from 3 in a 74-59 victory over Mississippi State on Feb. 26.
“We are not going to live and die by the three ball. That doesn’t mean we don’t have kids that can shoot it,” Mulkey said, noting that her team had not played for nearly two weeks since losing to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament. “We were a little rusty and missed some open looks. … I would say, ‘Leave us open. Leave us open if you don’t think we can make it.’ We are not afraid to shoot it.”
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