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Angel Reese Is On Another Level

by Harrison Valentine | Digital Media Graduate Assistant
Angel Reese Is On Another Level

Kim Mulkey saw something in Angel Reese’s eye this week.

It wasn’t an eyelash or a sparkle reflecting off her Bayou Barbie crown.

She saw hunger, stemming from LSU’s loss to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament.

“When you are considered an All-American, and one of the best players in the country, sometimes you take it a little bit harder,” Mulkey said. “I think it gnaws at her. She’s had very good practices. I have been able to say to our staff that she’s on another level again right now.”

That level, seen on the floor this weekend at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, is a level few can unlock. And in two feast-or-famine NCAA elimination games, a starving Reese chose to feast.

“I was hungry,” Reese said. “I didn’t want to let my seniors go out on a loss. It’s bigger than me. They just had their last game at the PMAC of their career. Being able to be out there, play as hard as I could and leave it all out on the floor for them was the most important thing to me.”

Reese came back from Greenville ready to work, making it a point to get with LSU strength and conditioning coach Thomas Lené over the two week period before the NCAA Tournament. She wanted to maximize that time, Lené says, to push herself harder than ever before. That meant lifting the heaviest she possibly could, extra conditioning in the mornings, and extra reps on the bike. The results, even in that short time, were striking.

“It was a different Angel than we’d seen all year,” Lené said. “You could tell she wanted something more.”

This mindset is nothing new for the Baltimore native, who is used to playing with a chip on her shoulder. In fact, if you walk into LSU’s locker room, you’ll see the number “4” hanging on a piece of paper – a number representing the amount of rebounds she tallied at South Carolina, where her historic double-double streak was ended. 

But like the good ones do, Reese channeled that motivation into action, shattering multiple NCAA Tournament records after posting 34 points and 15 rebounds against Hawaii on Friday and 25 points, 24 rebounds and six blocks against Michigan on Sunday.

With those performances, Reese became the first SEC player this century with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds in a women’s NCAA tournament game, also becoming the first player to record at least 25 points, 20 rebounds and 5 blocks in a women’s NCAA tournament game since 2000.

Much like her head coach, Reese has lived up to the hype and rewritten history along the way, helping to make an instant impact on an LSU program in a rapid rebuild.

“In a short period of time she has made an impact on our program,” Mulkey said of Reese. “Every sport at LSU has one particular player that everybody knows about. Angel has lived up to her hype on this floor. She has helped us jumpstart and wake up this program and community.”

Reese was just a piece of the puzzle in LSU’s 66-42 win over the Wolverines. It was as complete a performance as the Tigers have pieced together all year long, a fitting result on the last game of the season at the PMAC, in front of a home crowd that has delivered all year long.

Senior LaDazhia Williams secured a double-double of her own with 10 points and 10 rebounds to accompany Alexis Morris and Flau’jae Johnson, posting 9 points and 8 points, respectively. Jasmine Carson came off the bench and knocked down three triples to spark an 11-0 run in the second quarter. Sophomore Kateri Poole broke into the starting lineup and was instrumental for the Tigers. All of LSU’s pieces came together in harmony to send them to the program’s first Sweet Sixteen since 2014, an accomplishment they won’t take lightly just 22 months removed from Coach Mulkey’s arrival. 

“It’s not a championship, but it’s definitely an accomplishment,” Mulkey said. “We’ve won one more game (in the NCAAs) than we did last year, and you better believe that’s big for us and rebuilding this program. That’s a big deal for this program at this time.”

Celebrating the little things became an established practice when she arrived on campus. When you’re building a program, Mulkey says, the little things tend to be taken for granted. Sitting at 30-2 overall, as the Tigers march on to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and ironically Mulkey’s 16th Sweet Sixteen, there’s nothing little about it. But the work continues.

If you think Reese’s hunger was satisfied on Sunday, think again. The main course is on its way.

LSU will now travel back to Greenville, the site of its most recent loss in the SEC Tournament, to play No. 2 seeded Utah as one of 16 remaining teams.

The spotlight gets brighter. The stage gets bigger.

But the Tigers can say something 52 other teams wish they could: 

The Show Goes On.