How big of a deal is No. 7 LSU bringing first team All-America forward Angel Reese home to her native Baltimore to face Coppin State?
The game at Coppin State’s 4,100-seat Physical Education Complex Arena is sold out for the ‘Pink Game’ with proceeds going to benefit the Kay Yow Cancer Fund (Play4Kay).
The game is scheduled for 5 p.m., will be streamed by ESPN+ and be heard locally on 107.3-FM.
“It came up in discussion to go back to the Baltimore area and see if we can find anybody who will play us,” LSU women’s coach Kim Mulkey said after her team extended its winning streak to 11 straight, defeating Northwestern State, 81-36. “It’s something we try to do when you’re doing scheduling. It’s not always possible. It’s hard, the timing of trying to come up with a date. Grateful they were able to do that.”
LSU (11-1) will play its final game before Christmas and the holiday season extended an opportunity to Reese, who played the first two years of her career at Maryland, to return to her hometown and play a game in what may be her final season.
“It’s going to be a surreal moment,” said Reese, who was named one of the Sporting News’ Athletes of the Year on Tuesday. “It’s like my homecoming. My aunt went to Coppin State. Everybody’s going to come out. I don’t know who they’re going to be cheering for, Coppin or LSU. Just being able to see so many people in the community and come out to see LSU and I’ve done a lot for Baltimore.
“Me coming back is going to be a big thing,” Reese said. “I’m excited to go back home. Hopefully, maybe I’ll be able to catch one of my brother’s (Maryland’s Julian Reese) games, too, and support him. Family’s always been something that’s important to me. I just appreciate my coaches being able to schedule a game back home.”
Coppin State (3-9) of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference has lost its last six games and averages 53 points per game on 33% shooting. With defending national champion LSU coming to town, Coppin may not reflect the same team that’s 0-4 at home where the Eagles average 1,243 fans per game.
Six-two junior forward Laila Lawrence tops Coppin in scoring (14.3) and rebounding (8.3) and has recorded five double-doubles this season with 6-0 redshirt junior guard Faith Blackstone next at 12.5 points.
“I read an article that this coach (Jermaine Woods) talked about how excited they are to play,” Mulkey said of Coppin. “I appreciated how much they appreciated us coming to play.”
Reese cultivated her career at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore where she led the school to three Interscholastic Athletic Association state championships and two conference titles. She was a two-time Baltimore Sun Player of the Year and became the nation’s No. 2 prospect that signed with Maryland.
Two years later Reese entered the NCAA transfer portal as the No. 1 prospect and signed with LSU where she blossomed into one of the country’s most recognizable figures in women’s basketball.
Her season averages of 23 points, 15.4 rebounds – ranking her among the top 10 nationally in both categories – only painted part of the picture Reese commissioned after helping the Tigers to their first NCAA national championship last season.
Reese was voted the Most Outstanding Player of the Women’s Final Four and rode a wave of popularity that included her crossing over into pop-culture on the iconic Saturday Night Live show and in rap music. She twice landed covers on Sports Illustrated – the magazine’s famous swimsuit and Money editions.
She became one of the biggest revenue producing college athletes in Name, Image and Likeness (NIL), drawing $1.3 million to put her at the top of women’s college basketball. She also appeared in Teen Vogue, TIME NEXT 100 list, Forbes 30 under 30 list and was also awarded the 2023 ESPY Breakthrough Athlete.
Reese, this week’s SEC Player of the Week, is LSU’s leading scorer (19.1) and rebounder (10.5) to pace the Tigers’ offense which produces 95.1 points a game.
DePaul junior transfer forward Aneesha Morrow’s part of a balanced team with 18.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and a team-high 34 steals. Freshman Mikaylah Williams, the SEC’s and USBW’s Freshman of the Week, averages 18.2 points and sophomore guard Flau’jae Johnson averages 11.9 points and 6.5 rebounds.
“Just the community and being able to go back,” Reese said of what she’s looking forward to the most. “I can show my teammates the (outdoor) court (at Scott Branch Activity Center) that was named after me. (I’m) Going into a community where it was hard in Baltimore, and just understood what I did and gave it back to them. LSU’s coming to Baltimore and realizing the importance of that.”