GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — With LSU’s frontcourt depth having taken a hit without two starters, the No. 7 Tigers relied on the help of one of their transfers to shoulder a lot of burden.
Junior Aneesah Morrow turned in career highs in her short time at LSU with 37 points and 16 rebounds and the Tigers won their second game at the Cayman Islands Classic Saturday with a 76-73 win over Virginia.
LSU (7-1), winners of seven straight games, without first team All-America forward Angel Reese for a fourth straight game and also sophomore forward Sa’Myah Smith who was injured in the early moments of Friday’s game with Niagara.
“Maybe one of my prouder moments in coaching,” LSU Coach Kim Mulkey said. “We were without Sa’Myah – didn’t expect that. We asked young ones to play out of position and to do some things that we haven’t worked on a whole heck of a lot. People say you coach to win championships and that’s the truth, but it’s much more than that to me. That was a happy locker room.”
It was the second straight double-double for Morrow in an LSU uniform to go with the 53 she compiled during her two seasons at DePaul. She averaged 32.5 points and 13.0 rebounds and earned a spot on the all-tournament team.
Hailey Van Lith followed with 12 points on 4 of 12 shooting from the field and a 3-pointer. She tied for team-high honors with five assists along with guard Last-Tear Poa. Guard Flau’jae Johnson added six points but contributed a career-high 15 rebounds, while freshman center Aalayah Del Rosario made her first career start in Smith’s absence. She had seven points, four rebounds and blocked two shots.
“Aneesah and Hailey bring experience to our team right now,” Mulkey said. “They’re experience having played at the college level is helping us right now. What they don’t know about our system, they know about the toughness of the game at this level.”
LSU built a 10-point lead (57-47) halfway through the final quarter when Virginia (4-2) responded, forcing LSU to turn the ball over against full-court pressure, narrowing the Tigers’ lead to two points with a minute left.
LSU cemented the victory from the free throw line and was 83.3% (20 of 24) from the free throw line. They also outrebounded the Cavaliers 47-42.
“I thought we just persevered,” Mulkey said. “We were resilient. So many teaching moments. They can only get better from here.”
The teams were tied at 38-38 at halftime when LSU took a 58-56 lead after three quarters. The game was tied 10 times and experienced nine lead changes with neither team leading by more than four points.
Virginia was led by Paris Clark’s 19 points. The Cavaliers made 9 of 31 shots from 3-point range.
LSU returns to action at home Thursday in the SEC/ACC Challenge against Virigina Tech, a Final Four participant that the Tigers defeated 79-70 en route to their first national championship.