Resounding response: No. 10 LSU, led by double-doubles from Angel Reese and Aneesah Morrow, hammers Alabama with strong second half

Tigers return home to host Arkansas at 4 p.m. Sunday

LSU's Aneesah Morrow (24) produced her 12th double-double of the season in Thursday's 78-58 victory at Alabama. PHOTO BY: LSU athletics

Four days ago, LSU had its nation’s best 16-game winning streak stopped, dropped three spots in the national rankings and fell out of a tie for first place in the Southeastern Conference.

For one half the Tigers appeared to be giving a repeat performance Thursday, trailing by one point at halftime on the road.

There was no sense of déjà vu, though, with No. 10 LSU giving a third quarter performance reminiscent of this year’s success, storming past Alabama, 78-58, before a record crowd of 5,575 at Coleman Coliseum.

“Coming off a tough loss and a poor performance by our team, that was a great win for us from a team standpoint,” LSU point guard Hailey Van Lith said of the team’s answer to Sunday’s 67-62 setback at Auburn. “That was about us, that was about us proving who we are and what we can do. That was a get-back game for us, and I think we accomplished that.”

LSU (17-2, 4-1) was back to its balanced method of operation on offense with four players scoring in double figures, including two delivering double-doubles and had another player coming within two rebounds of reaching the milestone.

First team All-America forward Angel Reese, who was plagued by foul trouble in the first half, scored 13 of her game-high 22 points in the second half to go with 17 rebounds for her 10th  double-double of the season. Aneesah Morrow recorded her 12th double-double of the season with 18 points, including a season-high two 3-pointers, 11 rebounds and three steals.

Mikaylah Williams added 14 points and Flau’jae Johnson added 10 points and eight rebounds.

The Tigers outscored the Crimson Tide (15-5, 2-3) 44-23 in the second half with Morrow (14), Reese (13) and Williams (10) leading the way.

“When you come off a loss and you go back on the road, those are hard games to win,” LSU women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey said. “You don’t know the psyche of your team, you don’t know if they’re confident right now, if they’re just feeling insecure about themselves.

“You learn a lot about your team, and I learned a lot tonight with Angel Reese sitting over there (with foul trouble) in the first half,” Mulkey said. “I thought Aayliah (Del Rosario with 5 points, 7 rebounds) was outstanding in her minutes. I thought we kept our composure. We did lose the lead there at the end of the second quarter, but I thought we came out in the third and fourth quarter like we were supposed to. We executed, in the timeouts we listened. We didn’t do much of that at Auburn. I hope we learned a lot from that loss. If you don’t learn you’ll never get better.”

One of the biggest turning points in LSU’s effort over its performance at Auburn was on the defensive end, primarily in the second half.

The Tigers held the Crimson Tide 16% shooting (4 of 25), including 0 of 6 from 3-point range and 23 points.

Illinois guard transfer Aaliyah Nye, who was instrumental in her team’s 35-34 halftime lead with 18 points, missed all three of her field goal attempts in the second half and didn’t score with Johnson executing better on her defensive assignment.  Point guard Loyal McQueen added 15 points.

Leading scorer Sarah Ashlee Barker, the SEC’s seventh-leading scorer at 16.4 points, fouled out with eight points with just under six minutes to play.

“I was pissed the girl scored 19 (actually 18) points,” Johnson said of the 6-foot Nye. “She was on fire. You have to give credit to her. She’s an amazing shooter. Most of the time she shot the ball, my hand was right in her pocket, but she had a good touch and good feel. If she didn’t have 19 points it wouldn’t been close, so I kind of took that personally that she wasn’t going to score again, and she didn’t score again.”

LSU roared out of the halftime locker room with eight unanswered points to take the lead for good at 42-35 on Williams’ free throw.

During that stretch Morrow made her second 3-pointer of the game to ignite her 15-point effort in the second half. Her contributions also included drawing the fourth foul against Barker and sending her to the bench with just over six minutes left in the third quarter.

Morrow turned a steal into an assist to Johnson who converted in transition during a span of the game LSU opened with a 20-3 surge at the 4:40 mark for a 54-38 advantage.

Van Lith added a three-pointer, Williams took a pass from Morrow and made a reverse layup, and Morrow converted a steal into a three-point play.

LSU expanded its lead to 56-39 on Reese’s spin in the lane when Alabama scored its first field goal in four minutes and second of the entire quarter on Jessica Timmons’ three-point play.

“I don’t think it was anything magical I said,” Mulkey said. “We got Angel back and we executed. We came out and ran some things in the third quarter early that got us going. I thought the big difference was that we defended better.”

The Tigers outscored the Tide 26-10 in the quarter with Reese making a pair of free throws and put back in her own miss for a 60-45 lead going into the fourth quarter.

LSU made it 70-49 on a frontcourt steal and baseline jumper from Morrow and the Tigers went on to build a 77-53 lead with 4:42 to go on Williams’ putback.

LSU, leading 34-27 after a 7-0 run with 2:02 left before halftime, had a disputed call go Bama’s way and seemingly fueled the Tide’s 8-0 run to end the first half with 35-34 edge.

Johnson had stolen the ball in Bama’s front court with a possible possession to extend her team’s seven-point lead but was instead called for dribbling the ball off her leg.

Consecutive 3-pointers from Nye and McQueen reduced LSU’s lead to 34-33 with 49 seconds left when Johnson was called for a three-shot foul on Nye with 2.9 seconds showing. She completed her 18-point half, making two of three shots, to change the lead for the third time in the half.

“They definitely played a great first half, but we were able to run away with it in the second,” said Van Lith, who had eight points and four assists.

LSU jumped out to a 9-2 lead less than four minutes into the game, reeling off nine straight points, with Williams scoring on two straight drives.

Bama responded with a 7-0 run, including five straight from Nye, and the game was tied three times over the last five minutes until the Tide took a 16-15 lead and with Reese on the bench with two fouls for the last eight minutes of the second quarter, maintained that one-point lead at halftime.

“It was a good game for us to rebound after a tough loss,” Mulkey said.

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William Weathers

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