Just when you thought there may be a shortcoming in Angel Reese’s game, the first team All-American introduced Thursday’s game with Texas A&M into evidence.
Reese, one of the Southeastern Conference’s top scorers and rebounders, delivered her eighth double-double of the season to go with a career-high seven in assists in No. 7 LSU’s 87-70 victory Thursday before a crowd of 11,536 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center
“I’ve always been a good passer,” Reese said, who had 20 points and 18 rebounds. “I was a point guard when I was younger, so I know where all of my teammates like the ball. I try to do as much as I can. I knew this year I was going to have to make a sacrifice.
“Probably my points or rebounds were going to go down so, I wanted something else to go up in another category,” Reese continued. “Either defensively, and now assists, is something I’ve been working on a lot. Being able to get my teammates the ball in the right places and understanding makes my job a lot easier.”
Reese was part of another balanced scoring effort for LSU (16-1, 3-0 in SEC) which featured all five of its starters in double figures. The Tigers, owners of the nation’s longest winning streak at 16 games, received a team-high 21 points and eight rebounds from Aneesah Morrow. Mikaylah Williams and Hailey Van Lith combined for five of LSU’s six 3-pointers with Williams scoring 16 and Van Lith 14, and Flau’jae Johnson added 11 points, five rebounds and three assists.
“If you look at the box scores after every game it’s pretty much what you see,” LSU women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey said. “We have too many kids who can score the ball and they’re sharing the wealth. I just think the more we get on the floor the better we’ll get.”
LSU, which defeated A&M for the eighth straight time, scored a season-high points allowed by Texas A&M (13-3, 1-2) which led the nation in scoring defense (48.9) and was second in field goal percentage defense (31.4). The Tigers shot 46.7% (28 of 60) with six 3-points and outrebounded the Aggies, 44-35.
It was A&M’s worse loss of the season. The Aggies, who previously lost 72-58 to Purdue, were led by the game-high 27 points of point guard Endyia Rogers.
“LSU’s got five players on the floor who can score at any time, so we knew we would have our hands full,” A&M coach Joni Taylor. “They’re a really, really good team. You’ve got to be able to keep them off the offensive glass and keep them off the free throw line. In the third and fourth quarters, we weren’t successful doing that and when give a team Plan A, a team as good as LSU, they’re going to make you pay for it.”
LSU followed a familiar script with third-quarter superiority, opening a 76-49 advantage with 8:17 to play on Van Lith’s three free throws. A&M, which lost the services of season-leading scorer Janiah Barker (12.7) to fouls with six points and 7:36 left in the game, outscored the Tigers 19-11 to make the game appear closer than it actually was.
Williams chased down a long defensive rebound and was fouled on a fastbreak attempt, knocking down a pair of free throws, to make it 53-43 at the 6:22 mark of the third quarter. The Tigers delivered an 11-0 run over a 2 ½-minute span to open a 62-45 lead with 3:03 left in the third quarter.
Johnson and Reese were at the heart of LSU’s blow out, opening with Johnson scoring on consecutive field goals, and Reese adding three straight free throws. Reese scored eight points and Morrow six during the quarter where LSU shot 50% (6 of 12), while A&M made just 27.3% (6 of 22).
“It’s those players, they’re just capable,” Mulkey said. “They’re strong, they can take you off the dribble, they can post you up. They can face you up. They’re just ballers and they just have the ability to get in there and bang with you. They’re going to make you guard them and if they don’t score the ball most of them get fouled.”
LSU tapered off its red-hot start in the second quarter, missing 9 of its last 10 shots, and held a 44-37 halftime lead.
The Tigers built an 11-point lead on three different occasions in the second quarter, including a 17-footer from Williams, during a stretch they made five of their first six shots over the first three minutes.
Williams scored nine points in the second quarter and provided LSU a 37-27 edge with 5:24 to go before halftime. She buried a pair of technical foul shots when Taylor came on the court to protest a non-call against Morrow on a defensive rebound attempt.
LSU maintained a double-digit lead despite Reese picking up her second foul on a loose ball with just over four minutes before halftime. She returned briefly for a pair of free throws for her 12th point of the half and her replacement, Aalayah Del Rosario, added a layup, but the Tigers didn’t score another field goal over the last 1:33 of the quarter.
The teams were tied twice and had two lead changes over the first seven minutes until LSU finished the first quarter on a 9-0 run to open a 22-14 edge. Reese carried the Tigers with 10 first-quarter points, including a pair of free throws after getting fouled on a lob pass, and Morrow converted an assist from Johnson, who then delivered a 15-footer with 1:18 to go.
“The typical process of building team chemistry,” said Van Lith, who handed out four assists. “We’re not immune to the natural process of that. We’re getting to know each other better. We’re getting around each other more often. We’re playing tough competition, so it’s bringing out that competitive fire in all of us. We’re definitely having fun.”