Smith Records Career-High In 112-55 Win Over Queens
BATON ROUGE — No. 1 LSU defeated Queens, 112-55, on a historic evening in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center where the Tigers scored the third most points in program history on the same night they raised a 2023 National Championship banner and got their rings.
“This game is interesting,” Coach Kim Mulkey said. “I have been blessed to coach a lot of great post players, a lot of great point guards, and a lot of great shooters. We have that on this team. We can share the wealth, they can all score. But what we have to do is focus on the defensive end.”
Prior to the game LSU received its 2023 National Championship rings. Commemorating the program’s first NCAA Championship, the rings have a number of special features that help tell the story of last year’s team. The top of the ring features 102 brilliant white stones in recognition of the amount of points the Tigers scored in the game against Iowa, a NCAA Championship game record. One side of the ring features a puzzle piece shaped like the state of Louisiana and last season’s team motto ‘Piece It 2gether’ while the other side has the National Championship trophy with a singular purple stone to symbolize the program’s first national championship. The bottom of the ring has LSU’s tournament motto of Focus 4 Four, a nod to the goal of reaching a Final Four and the four quarters of effort that winning a NCAA Tournament game requires. The inside of the ring has the scores from all six of LSU’s 2023 NCAA Tournament wins. Each ring has the recipient’s name and number on it along with the year 2023 and last season’s record of 34-2.
The 2023 NCAA National Championship banner was also raised during the pregame ceremony to where it will forever hang from the East rafters inside of the PMAC.
“I made everybody look up at the Final Four banners (during my introduction press conference) and I made the comment that there is no national championship banner here and that’s what I came home to do,” Coach Mulkey said. “I got that monkey off my back, didn’t I? It was fun, it was fun to come home, it was fun to do that and now we have built this program back to relevancy and that’s where you want to stay. Do you know how hard it is to win a national championship?”
LSU will be back in action on Sunday afternoon as it hosts Mississippi Valley State at 2:00 p.m. CT in the PMAC.
LSU had a new starting lineup on Thursday night. Returners Angel Reese, Flau’jae Johnson, and Sa’Myah Smith were joined by newcomers Hailey Van Lith and Mikaylah Williams. Smith’s nod marked her third career appearance in the starting lineup.
Reese recorded her 36th double-double while at LSU, moving her into a tie with Ayana Mitchell for the second most ever by an LSU player, only behind Sylvia Fowles who had 86 throughout her career. Reese had 28 points and 14 rebounds, her ninth double-double in a row going back to last season. It was her 16th game with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds going back to last season, the most in the NCAA in that span.
Smith had a career-high with 21 points on 9-11 shooting, adding 8 rebounds. Aneesah Morrow scored 16 points and Johnson had 13.
Queens guard Nicole Gwynn led her squad with 26 points on 8-14 from beyond the arch after only making one triple in her last outing versus Ole Miss on Monday night. Gwynn was the only Royal to reach double figures. Alexandria Johnson scored nine points and no Queens player had more than three rebounds.
The Tigers were dominant in the paint, scoring 68 points there. They also dominated the boards, out-rebounding Queens, 49-21, including 13 offensive rebounds that lead to 23 second chance points. LSU shot the ball well at 63.6-percent and they were efficient at the free-throw line at 24-29 from the charity stripe.
Smith made her presence known early as she won the tip-off and proceeded to score back to back layups in the Tiger’s first two possessions. LSU scored its first three buckets off of offensive rebounds. The Tigers held a 16-7 lead at the media timeout with seven of its points coming from the foul line. Reese recorded a three-point play and pushed the Tigers past the 20-point mark to give LSU its first double digit lead of the night. Gwynn connected on her fourth triple of the night to put Queens back within eleven with two minutes to go. LSU took a 13-point lead to finish the first quarter up 33-20.
LSU forced a Royals timeout as it opened the second quarter on a 10-0 run that saw buckets from Smith, Johnson, and Reese. The Tigers held Queens scoreless for over five minutes to begin the quarter. Reese scored on back-to-back possessions to put LSU up by 31 as she broke the 20-point mark. Shaw hit a corner three to end the second quarter and put the Royals down by 26 before the half.
The Tigers shot an impressive 51-percent from the field in the first half compared to Queens’ 34-percent. The Royals hit six threes in the first 20-minutes of action compared to LSU’s one. The Royals were kept away from the charity stripe while LSU went 19-21 on free throws in the first half.
Thirty seconds into the third quarter a Reese defensive rebound secured her second double-double of the season. LSU called a timeout with just over five to play in the quarter as the Royals outscored the Tigers 15-10 to open the quarter. Queens was 4-5 from deep to start the third, Gwynn went 3-3. LSU returned from the timeout with a 4-0 run before Queens took a timeout of its own. The Tigers combined for a 13-2 run over three minutes through the middle of the third. Sith picked up a huge block that led to a floater finish from Aneesah Morrow on the other end. LSU held a 86-50 lead headed into the final ten minutes of the contest.
Smith kicked off the fourth with a layup to push her past the 20-point mark and give LSU its largest lead of the night. A coast-to-coast steal and finish from Johnson followed by a bucket from Aaliyah Del Rosario extended the LSU run to 9-0 on four of its last four attempts from the field. At the final media timeout the Tigers held a 47 lead over the Royals. Del Rosario boosted the Tigers past the century mark with 3:57 left to play to make it 101-53. Freshman Janae Kent scored on three consecutive possessions for a 7-0 solo run where she was assisted by each of her Freshman teammates. The Tigers totaled 112 points to finish the night with a 57-point win.