Maybe it was the 10-day break for exams. Maybe it was a lack of energy and effort that resulted in a wholesale lineup change.
Whatever the reason No. 7 LSU took the better part of a half to get in sync and relied on the 1-2 inside punch of Aneesah Morrow and Angel Reese in an 83-53 victory Sunday over UL-Lafayette before 10,794 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“The way we started offense wasn’t very good and I don’t want to take anything away from ULL,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey. “I thought (head) coach (Garry) Brodhead did a good job of having his team ready. I thought some of the things he was doing to us when the game started was sound.”
LSU (9-1), which hadn’t played since an 82-64 win on Nov. 30 over Virgnia Tech, extended its winning streak to nine games. The Tigers pushed aside their ragged start which included a 28-28 halftime deadlock by outscoring UL-Lafayette 55-25 on 62.1% shooting compared to 30% for the visitors.
Morrow registered her fourth straight double-double, leading all scorers with 27 points with 10 rebounds, while Reese scored 16 of her 20 points in the second half. Freshman Mikayah Williams had the first double-double of her career with 18 points, including all four of her team’s 3-pointers, and a team-high 11 rebounds. The Tigers were superior on the glass (52-22) which contributed to a 21-2 advantage in second-chance points.
“I try to be as consistent as I possibly can every day,” said Morrow, who picked her 57th career double-double. “My goal is to get a double-double every night. I’m a double-double machine and I’ve been doing that since my freshman year. I’m staying as consistent as I possibly can.”
Morrow scored 20 of her game-high total in the second half on 7 of 9 shooting and had six rebounds. Reese, who was 0 of 4 shooting in the first half with four points, made 5 of 6 shots and was 10 of 18 overall from the free throw line.
Point guard Last Tear Poa, filling in for an injured Hailey Van Lith (Plantar Fasciitis), had a team-high seven assists.
LSU carried over the momentum from its third-quarter blitz and built a lead which never dwindled below 20 points over the last seven minutes of play. The Tigers reached that threshold on Mikaylah Williams’ 3-pointer from the corner with 7:25 to play and it was her fourth trifecta that pushed her team’s lead to 78-49 to go.
Freshman guard Angelica Velez’s two free throws accounted for the final score and accounted for LSU’s largest lead with 16 seconds left.
UL-Lafayette, which shot 37.9% (22 of 58), had two players in double figures with guard Brandi Williams leading the way with 14 and forward Tamera Johnson added 13.
“We were just more aggressive,” Mulkey said of the second half. “We played like we normally do. We just pounded the ball in there. We had missed shots, and we got the rebound and got second chances. I thought everything we did in the second was totally opposite of what we did in the first half, and it starts with your effort, your energy, your aggressiveness.”
LSU made it a point to get Reese and Morrow involved in the interior, turning a tied game at halftime into a 56-37 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Tigers outscored the Cajuns 28-9 by shooting 75% (9 of 12) from the floor with Reese and Morrow combining for 12 points on 7 of 9 shooting.
“At the beginning of the game the guards were jacking up shots, missing shots,” LSU’s Mikaylah Williams said. “We’re not getting anything offensively. Our core are the post players. Aneesah and Angel are beasts down low. We know if we get it in there, they can get our offense going and they can work their way out of it.”
LSU came out of the locker room on a 15-2 spurt with Morrow and Reese combining for 12 points and Mikaylah Williams added a three-pointer, helping the Tigers open their first double-digit lead (43-30) that led to UL-Lafayette (3-3) having to call timeout.
The Cajuns experienced a five-minute scoring drought until Brandi Williams’ basket at the 4:20 mark reduced the Tigers’ lead to 43-32.
Reese and Morrow teamed up on the team’s next 10 points and Poa started a fastbreak with a blocked shot and Flau’jae Johnson converted in transition on a three-point play with 48.7 seconds left for a 56-37 advantage.
LSU found itself a battle, rallying from a four-point deficit to pull even at 28-all by halftime.
Brandi Williams scored 11 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer at the 6:27 mark, and the Cajuns led the majority of the way until Morrow rattled off consecutive field goals in the last 1:29 to make it 28-28 – the third tie of the half.
Reese and Johnson, who combined for 28 points a game on the season, were 0 of 6 from the floor and totaled just five points in the first half.
Mulkey benched four of her starters in the first two minutes, leaving in only Reese, during a slow start where they Cajuns held a 8-2 lead through the first five minutes of the game.
When Mikaylah Williams returned, she scored five straight points with a 3-pointer that ignited an 11-0 run and provided the Tigers with a 13-8 lead. Freshman center Aalyah Del Rosario (8 points, 7 rebounds) followed with five straight points with a pair of point-blank field goals and a free throw, and Johnson finished the run with a free throw with 47.6 seconds to go.
“The biggest thing was staying sane,” Mikaylah Williams said. “We came off a 10-day break. We wanted to start off fast, but we didn’t. Just staying sane and facing adversity. We’ve been facing adversity this whole season. What’s something in a game? We faced it. We stayed sane, we did what we had to on defense and the offense came and it was all good.”
NOTES: Mulkey confirmed that junior guard Kateri Poole is no longer with the program. Poole, who started in the last five games of the national championship season, appeared in four games this season, averaging 2.0 points and 1.8 rebounds. … LSU’s winning streak reached 23 games at home and the Tigers are 20-1 versus the Cajuns at home. … The Cajuns, who ranked 36th nationally in points allowed, yielded a season high point total to LSU. … The Tigers return home Tuesday to host McNeese at 7 p.m.