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Tigers Advance to Elite Eight, 66-63

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Tigers Advance to Elite Eight, 66-63

GREENVILLE, S.C. – LSU and Utah were neck and neck throughout most of Friday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup in Bon Secours Arena, but the Tigers ultimately secured their first trip to the Elite Eight since 2008 with a 66-63 win over the Utes.

“I just thought it was two heavyweights going at it, and that’s what I told their coach after the game,” said second-year LSU Coach Kim Mulkey who, in her second season in Baton Rouge, has the Tigers on the doorstep of a Final Four. “I said, somebody had to win and somebody had to lose. We just made a few more plays.”

Coach Mulkey, who has the distinction as the only person – men’s or women’s – with a national championship as a player, assistant coach and head coach, has now led teams to 11 Elite Eights as a head coach.

The Tigers are one win away from advancing to the Final Four in Dallas. LSU will need to go through Miami on Sunday at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN in the Elite Eight. This marks LSU’s ninth appearance in the Elite Eight. LSU last went to the Elite Eight in 2008, the same year the Tigers last advanced to a Final Four.

LaDazhia Williams scored a season-high 24 points to lead the Tigers and Angel Reese,, who fouled out late, scored 17 and grabbed 12 rebounds. It was Reese’s 31st double-double this season to tie the SEC record. Alexis Morris added 15 points and made free throws down the stretch the shore up the victory.

“I’m not ready to go home,” Williams said. “We already know where we want to go, and Angel getting in early foul trouble, I felt like I needed to step up as a senior and just be a leader on the court and just do what I can for my team.”

For Utah Gianna Kneepkens led the way with 20 points and Isabel Palmer had 15. LSU limited PAC 12 Player of the Year Alissa Pili to 14 points.

Utah and LSU threw punches back and forth and neither team ever stretched the lead larger than eight. When LSU did gain an eight-point advantage in the fourth quarter, Utah came storming back to take the lead. Utah led by one, byut Morris grabbed an offensive rebound off a rare miss from Reese and drew a foul. Morris sank both free throws and LSU held on defensively to get the win.

The game featured 12 lead changes and 11 ties.

LSU started the game quickly, jumping out to a 13-6 lead, but Utah responded back with a 7-0 run to tie the ballgame with 1:30 left in the quarter. LaDazhia Williams put LSU back in front with her first bucket of the game, but the Utes came down the floor and nailed a three to go in front. Reese hit one-of-two at the free throw line to tie the game at 16 at the end of the first quarter.

Utah jumped out in front 19-16, knocking down another three on the first play of the second quarter. Reese scored to make it a one-point game, but soon thereafter picked up her second foul and LSU went with a four-guard lineup as Reese went to the bench. With LSU struggling to make shots, Utah went on a 6-0 run to build a seven-point lead. Williams ended the run after she forced Pili to pick up her second foul, but Williams soon picked up her second, but Coach Mulkey opted to keep the senior on the court.  Morris hit a pull-up to bring the Tigers within three going into the media timeout. Morris hit another pull-up out of the timeout and then Williams drew a foul on a defensive rebound and tied the game at 25, making one bonus free throw. Utah hit back-to-back triples with just over a minute left in the half to take a 33-29 lead which is how the game went into halftime.

Williams scored six early point in the third quarter as LSU tied Utah at 37. After two turnovers with opportunities to go ahead, LSU Reese scored off an offensive rebound to give the Tigers their first lead of the half. On the other end, Kateri Poole committed her fourth foul and Pili made two free throws to tie the game. Reese scored off another offensive board and Pili hit a three on the other end and Utah took a 42-41 lead into the media timeout. Williams gave LSU a 44-42 lead late in the third, tying her season high. After a made three by Utah, Morris hit a shot at the Buzzer and the Utes took a one-point lead into the final quarter.

Poole, back in the game, found Williams on a drive-and-dish as LSU took the lead to start the fourth. Reese left the game with 7:52 left in the game with apparent leg cramps, but she checked back into the game after just over 30 seconds of game time with LSU in front, 50-47. In the meantime, Flau’jae Johnson fouled out of the game and Utah entered the bonus early in the quarter. With Utah back up two, Poole hit her second three of the game for LSU to reclaim the lead. With a five-point lead, Morris hit her first triple as LSU took its largest lead of the game.

With LSU now up seven, Utah went on a 9-0 run take the lead with just over a minute remaining. With the score holding steady, Morris went to the line with 10 seconds remaining and sank two free throws and LSU held on the defensive end to clinch the win.